By LINDA WOODLAND
Monday began with Seneca County Health Commissioner Beth Schweitzer reporting the COVID-19 is not in Seneca County yet, but it’s on its way.
By day’s end, Schweitzer reported a Seneca County resident tested positive for coronavirus.
The positive test was recorded in a 52-year-old woman who lives in Seneca County.
The virus is believed to be present in many areas of the state, even if those counties have not yet tested a person confirmed to have COVID-19, a press release from the district states.
No additional personal information about the Seneca County case will be provided in order to protect personal privacy.
During Schweitzer’s first live briefing given over Facebook Monday morning, she acknowledged the coronavirus would eventually be confirmed in the county.
“There will be people in our community with COVID-19 and we are expecting it. We have been preparing for it and we know that there are cases nearby,” Schweitzer said, noting both Hancock County and Wood County have reported their first cases.
“So, we know that it’s out there. The community spread is there. And I would like to be able to say that we will not have any cases here but of course, I cannot do that. We are expecting it. And we will be prepared for that. So this is where it becomes so important that we follow the guidelines that will prevent the spread of infection,” she said.
Schweitzer, again reminded the community to practice social distancing that keeps people six feet apart from each other. She also reminded the community to follow Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to stay home as much as possible and to only venture out when it is absolutely necessary. She also advised the public to sneeze or cough into their elbow or a tissue, throwing the tissue away and washing hands immediately.
“We want to practice good hand washing. I know that sounds so simple, but good hand washing for at least 20 seconds. The soap and water will help rid the hands of that disease,” she said, adding it is important to try to not touch your face. “I know that’s tough to do. Until I started being very conscious of this, I did not realize how often we do touch our face, but that’s very important,” she said.
During the live briefing, Schweitzer said at last count 24 tests have been performed at Tiffin Mercy and Fostoria ProMedica. Three of those have gone to the Ohio Department of Health laboratory, and the rest have gone to commercial laboratories.
“We have received reports on six of those with all six being negative and we have pending 18 of those.”
She explained how tests are considered positive and that there are a number of reasons why those tests have not been performed on those who would like to have one.
“To be considered for a test, a patient must have the major symptoms of COVID-19, which are you fever above 100.4, a cough and respiratory distress such as shortness of breath.”
She said tests performed in the virus’ early stages may fail to show a positive result.
“I can tell you in the case of the Ohio Department of Health, they received a limited amount of the substance needed to conduct those tests. Therefore, a limited number of tests can be processed. That’s why their guidance on who can be tested through their laboratory is very stringent and very specific,” she said, adding there are now additional commercial labs which have developed their own tests.
The health commissioner said for now, tests are for hospitalized patients who have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, symptomatic individuals such as older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions or who have low immune systems and anyone including healthcare personnel within 14 days of their symptoms starting, have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or has a travel history to affected areas.
“We also are testing those who come from our nursing home facilities because of the close quarters that they have. In case there’s an outbreak, we want to make sure that we detect all of those possible positives,” she said.
“Above all, if you are sick stay home. I just received a call from a very concerned citizen who was out this weekend before the order was given to stay as home. And they were in contact in two different places with employees who were visibly ill,” Schweitzer reported. “I know many employers feel they need to have their employees at work but it is crucial that if you have an employee that is sick, they must stay home.”
Schweitzer said anyone with COVID-19 symptoms need to stay home, self isolate for 14 days and contact their health care provider.
“If you are seriously ill, contact the hospital before you would go to the emergency rooms. You can prepare or they can prepare appropriately for your arrival,” she said.
Schweitzer said she understands it hasn’t been easy for the public or businesses to have to shut their doors to face the loss of income to let employees go, who will face the loss of a paycheck. But I want you to know that the efforts you’re making are going to make a difference,” she said.
“I will tell you that as of today, the Seneca County General Health District has decided we will no longer be allowing the public into the building,” she said. “If it’s something you physically need, we will arrange a time to meet you at the door with that paper or whatever it is you need while keeping that six-feet distance.”
The health commissioner said if every one does their part, it will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Seneca County,.
“I want to tell you, we will come through this. I haven’t been in Seneca County very long, just six years, but I have come to know it as a community that cares about their fellow citizens. We are a strong community. We’re a resilient community. And I promise you that I will do everything that I can in my power to help this community get through these uncertain times. And I’m sure that you will help your fellow citizens get through this rough time as well.”