By LINDA WOODLAND
Seneca County Health District is ready to move into action today now that the COVID-19 virus has landed in Ohio.
Health Commissioner Beth Schweitzer said the day would start with a conference call from the Ohio Department of Health.
“Unless they have something different from what we are doing right now, we’re following the current guidelines on when to test and encouraging people to contact their health care providers before they go (if they think they may have the virus) because healthcare providers can be ready with a mask for them and get them into a room away from other people,” Schweitzer said. “We’re still saying that the best thing we can do right now is to continue those practices of everything you do to prevent infection.”
Early Monday, the health district issued a press release stating, “it is on constant surveillance of the rapidly evolving situation with the Novel Corona Virus known as COVID-19. However, the public should prepare for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in the community,” the release states.
By later afternoon Monday, that watchfulness turned into action and later this afternoon, the health department will be meeting with its emergency preparedness partners.
“That includes our EMA, it includes the police chiefs, the fire chiefs of different municipalities throughout the county, it includes a public information officer, people from the hospital, the commissioners, the auditor…” she said, to name a few of the team members.
Three people have tested positive for the virus, all in Cuyahoga County in northeastern Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine and Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton said at a late Monday afternoon news conference.
All three — a husband and wife who were on a Nile cruise, and a man who attended the America Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C. — are in their mid-50s and are from Cuyahoga County. They are all isolated at home, said Terry Allan, the Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner.
Schweitzer said for now, the public might want to err on the side of caution and avoid settings that could put them at risk.
“I would say people who want or if they have traveling plans, they really want to do some consideration about whether they want to do that.”
She said the elderly and those whose immune system can’t fight off infectious diseases are in the greatest danger of the coronavirus.
“So those groups might want to think about ‘do we have lunch? Do we have gatherings? Do we get together?’ We’re encouraging people not to shake hands or hug for that six-foot distance, if you can keep that, which I know is not possible everywhere you go. Those are the recommendations right now, of course, there is not a vaccine developed so we won’t be doing anything with that for a while.”
The health commissioner said it is important to try to be very conscious about practicing respiratory etiquette, such as sneezing and coughing into your elbow or a tissue — not your hand.
“We’ve got to do that and I know that sounds so simplistic. Cleaning surfaces where people may have been, washing those hands — and that’s better than hand sanitizer.”
But if soap and water are not accessible, hand sanitizer is the best option.
“You want to rub your hands with hand sanitizer, honestly — 60% alcohol — after you touch something that you don’t have access to wash your hands. That’s better than nothing at all.”
And keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
“Try not to do that,” she said, adding she, too, is making a conscious effort to keep her hands away from her face. “It is hard not to do that.”
Schweitzer said coronavirus symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. Those who
have had close contact with someone diagnosed with the virus within 14 days should be tested as well as anyone traveling from affected geographic areas.
And regardless if it’s the coronavirus or just the flu, stay home.
“We all think we need to be at work, no matter what. It’s better to not infect others,” she said.