Local official advises basic hygiene, health practices going forward
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A Lee County Health Department official says basic hygiene and preparation is the best course to take as the state carefully watches the progress of the novel (new) coronavirus.
Michele Ross, administrator of the Lee County Health Department, said Wednesday morning, that, as of Tuesday, there still were no confirmed cases of the virus COVID-19, in Iowa.
She said the Iowa Department of Public Health is posting updated information on Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to how many people are being monitored and tested for the virus in the state.
As of Wednesday morning at 8:45 a.m. 39 people have completed monitoring and to date zero were symptomatic of the virus. Five currently being monitored were asymptomatic, or without symptoms.
Since Feb. 3 monitoring began five people in the state have had COVID-19 testing, three were negative and two are still pending.
Ross said LCHD is updating information regularly on their website and social media channels, but right now, basic flu fighting strategies are highly recommended.
“What we don’t to do is create a panic. We don’t want people rushing to ERs when they may not need to know, especially with the ERs being as busy as they are right now with seasonal flu,” Ross said.
She said officials are focusing on people who have traveled to mainland China in the last 14 days, but said travel advisories have been posted for other countries and those are listed on the IDPH website at https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus
“Right now we don’t have any of the of the COVID-19 in Iowa. Possibly it’s going to come here. It’s a virus that can spread pretty easily. But talking to your family about what you can do – cough etiquette and hadwashing. Getting into that practice,” Ross said.
“We’re not encouraging masks, but if you are sick and have to go somewhere for health care, just let them know ahead of time by calling. They’ll do some screening questions and testing criteria, but the big thing is recent travel from mainland China.”
She said basic influenza protections should be in place and families should talk about plans no differently than they would about severe weather plans.
“We’re trying to get as much information out as we can. We’re putting out a press release this morning. advising residents on spring break travel.and some recommendations along those lines,” Ross said.
Fact sheets are available to the public on the local and state health department websites, but locally officials are trying to keep as much information coming forward as possible.
“Of course cover your cough and sneezes, prepare, and make self-plans. Staying at least six feet away from those who appear sick, but these are things we should be doing anyway, during any flu season,” she said.
Making a plan in case school’s have to be closed for cleaning is good preparedness. Also making back up plans for child care, should a center or daycare provider have to close due to illness or cleaning. Again, plans she said people should have in place anyway.
“The virus is not here right now. We do have a lot of influenza viruses here,” so it’s just the basic messages – stay home if your ill. Don’t go to work and do what you can to contain other viruses. Good hand hygiene at all times is very important and disinfect common surfaces like door knobs and shared computers,” she said.
“The flu remains widespread and because symptoms are the same, even with common colds, people are getting concerned. We don’t want people running to the ER if there’s no emergency. Call ahead and they can prescreen and go through some criteria.”
A release from LCHD Wednesday morning encouraged those looking to go on spring break to protect their health as part of their planning.
“As spring break nears, many Iowans are making travel preparations. IDPH and LCHD remind vacationers to make protecting their health part of their plans. Whether traveling to a sunny beach, a ski resort or enjoying a staycation, take time to learn about and prepare for health concerns,” the release stated.
“Most often, person-to-person spread is thought to happen among people in close contact (about 6 feet) with each other. This spread is believed to occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes and droplets land on another person’s nose or mouth. Therefore, when at home or traveling, it is important to avoid being near people who are visibly ill. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.”