County makes plans for coronavirus

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As fears over the new coronavirus spread across the country, some are left wondering about how it could affect those on a local level.

According to Perry County Health Department director Sylvia Forester, local agencies are keeping abreast of developments and making plans in case the disease finds its way to Perry County.

“Information changes almost daily,” Forester said Tuesday, “and we’re staying on top of it. We have meetings scheduled with local officials and hospitals to discuss preparations.”

Last week, medical professionals in St. Louis held a press conference, along with Gov. Mike Parson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, to announce the first case to test “presumptive positive” for the new coronavirus in Missouri.

“We understand that there is serious concern about this virus and the potential escalation surrounding positive cases in our community,” said Spring Schmidt, Co-Director of St. Louis County Department of Public Health. “Our Department, local public health and local public safety agencies are working closely with state and federal agencies to quickly identify and respond to cases that might occur. We can’t stress the importance of taking protective measures enough.”

So far, Forester said, there have been no cases of the new coronavirus disease, called COVID-19, in the county.

According to staff at Perry County Memorial Hospital, they are taking appropriate measures to prepare for the disease, including distributing educational material and proper protection for patients, staff, and the community. In addition, teams are meeting regularly to monitor data and information to ensure appropriate training and resources are distributed campus wide.

“We are constantly monitoring information as it becomes available,” said Stephani Breig, the hospital’s director of education and infection preventionist. “We work closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our local health department to align screenings, testing, and treatment recommendations.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, 647 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States with 25 deaths in 36 jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia. Those numbers include both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 — like the one in St. Louis County — reported to the CDC or tested at the CDC since Jan. 21, with the exception of testing results for persons repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China and Japan.

The Missouri case is travel related. The infected person, a female in her 20s from St. Louis County, recently traveled to Italy. She is now in isolation at home with family members who have also been in isolation. Local health department officials are identifying As fears over the new coronavirus spread across the country, some are left wondering about how it could affect those on a local level.

According to Perry County Health Department director Sylvia Forester, local agencies are keeping abreast of developments and making plans in case the disease finds its way to Perry County.

“Information changes almost daily,” Forester said Tuesday, “and we’re staying on top of it. We have meetings scheduled with local officials and hospitals to discuss preparations.”

Last week, medical professionals in St. Louis held a press conference, along with Gov. Mike Parson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, to announce the first case to test “presumptive positive” for the new coronavirus in Missouri.

“We understand that there is serious concern about this virus and the potential escalation surrounding positive cases in our community,” said Spring Schmidt, Co-Director of St. Louis County Department of Public Health. “Our Department, local public health and local public safety agencies are working closely with state and federal agencies to quickly identify and respond to cases that might occur. We can’t stress the importance of taking protective measures enough.”

So far, Forester said, there close contacts to monitor symptoms and contain spread.

“I am confident in the work of the Department of Health and Senior Services and the St. Louis County Public Health Department and know that they will do what they can to protect the health and safety of Missouri communities,” Governor Mike Parson said.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has tested a total of 26 individuals for COVID-19 including the presumptive positive case announced today. Three additional tests remain in progress.

“We are committed to bringing you the most up-to-date information as we tackle COVID-19 head on,” Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director Dr. Randall Williams said. “We will continue to assist the St. Louis County Health Department, and our thoughts are certainly with this patient and family.”

The new coronavirus is part of a family of viruses, some of which can infect people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.

The viruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

COVID-19, which stands for “coronavirus disease 2019,” is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

“The best defense right now is to wash your hands, cover your cough, and stay home when you are sick,” Breig said.

The PCMH Nursing Administration encourages the following as preventative measures:

Hospital visitors with flu-like symptoms should refrain from visiting hospitalized loved ones

Children ages 12 and under are asked not to visit hospitalized patients.

All clinic patients with flu-like symptoms or recent travel are encouraged to call before visiting their doctor for specific instructions.

Established patients planning to visit PFCC experiencing flu-like symptoms or recent travel, are asked to call (573) 547-7888 and explain symptoms before walking into the clinic.

Patients planning to visit PFCC West due to flu-like symptoms or recent travel, should call (573) 768-3220 before walking in.

Perry Kids pediatric clinic visitors, children, and care-takers who have recently traveled and are experiencing flu-like symptoms are asked to call (573) 517-0999 before visiting.

“Protecting the health of our community is a top priority,” said PCMH chief medical officer Dr. Matthew D. Gaeta. “COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person, both directly, and hand-to-mouth. Wash your hands as frequently as you can, stay away from crowded places, and avoid people who are coughing and sneezing.”

Forester said the best way to stay informed about the new coronavirus disease or to get more information is to visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or the DHSS website at https://health.mo.gov/emergencies/ert/alertsadvisories.

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