Clay County Public Health officials emphasize need for social distancing

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

As community spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has occurred in Iowa, Clay County Public Health officials emphasize the importance of social distancing and offer a number of recommendations to the community.

“COVID-19 is a new virus, so while symptoms may be similar to other illnesses, it is a new disease and no one has immunity to it,” said Dr. David Keith, medical director for Clay County Public Health. “Therefore, social distancing — which means only essential trips to public areas — is essential in curtailing the spread of the disease. Our focus is on prevention and slowing the rapid spread of this virus in order to have adequate resources, both supplies and healthcare personnel, to provide care to those in need. That will be more difficult if everyone gets sick at once.”

Janessa Mechler, chair of the Clay County Board of Health, added, “Please be careful to help keep yourself and loved ones from becoming infected. I cannot emphasize enough the importance on only making necessary trips to public places. People must be selective about going to public places. If it’s essential that you make a trip to a store, volunteer to drop off supplies for a neighbor. If you must be out, the recommendation is to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others. Also, remember, thoroughly and frequently wash your hands with soap and water.”

Keith and Mechler outlined several steps for community members to consider to help manage this public health emergency.

INDIVIDUALS & FAMILIES

—Know where to find local information. Clay County Public Health is coordinating information with Spencer Hospital which can be found at www.spencerhospital.org. Follow the link to the COVID-19 update page.

—Practice social distancing. Only make essential trips. Avoid places where 10 or more people may gather. Avoid all non-essential travel.

Stay home if you are sick. Call your health provider’s office in advance of a visit.

—Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure you scrub palms, backs of hands and between fingers. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol content.

—Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without washing your hands first.

—Be as healthy as you can. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and manage your stress.

BUSINESSES

—Implement social distancing practices at work, which includes, when feasible.

—Consider telework.

—Stagger work schedules.

—Increase physical space between workers on the worksite.

—Limit non-essential work travel.

—Consider regular health checks (ie. Temperature screenings of staff).

—Evaluate how your business can protect coworkers and customers. Suggestions include:

—Encourage online shopping.

—Limit dining to pick-up, delivery, carry-out and drive-thru.

—Conduct service business through telephone and email.

—Consider creative ways to assist customers in shopping and obtaining your products.

“At this time there have been no reported cases in our area, yet I would encourage people to practice social distancing under the assumption that the virus is present locally,” Keith said. “Those measures will help slow the spread of disease.”

He shared that reported illnesses across the world have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Most people experience mild illness. The following symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure: Fever, cough, shortness of breath. COVID-19 can be more severe for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

“Again, if you suspect you are ill and may have been exposed to COVID-19, call first,” Keith said. “Health professionals can provide a phone screening and instructions on next steps. This helps avoid potentially infecting other people at a clinic or hospital seeking care for conditions not related to the COVID-19 virus.”

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