While the presence of COVID-19 has not been identified in Union County, local government and hospital officials say they are prepared to handle any challenges the virus might present in the area.
“We’ve been prepared for a pandemic before, so it’s not something we haven’t done a lot of planning and exercising on,” said Jo Anne Duckworth, Union County Emergency Management director.
Kayla Hoffman, director of marketing and communications at Greater Regional Health, said GRH is supplied and available to test patients for the presence of the novel coronavirus.
“Our hospital is working with CDC guidelines and we are equipped to handle anything that may come our way,” said Kayla Hoffman,. “We are just going by all of the policy and procedures that have been set, so we’re taking it day-by-day.”
To help keep patients, the public and healthcare workers safe, GRH is urging individuals with symptoms to call ahead.
“If anyone has any flu-like or upper respiratory symptoms to please call ahead and please call so we can talk to you over the phone about these symptoms and then refer you to come into the ER. We don’t want you to show up with these symptoms and then walk into the hospital,” said Hoffman.
To talk to a healthcare professional, individuals can call GRH’s clinic at 641-782-2131, urgent care at 641-782-1181 or the switchboard at 641-782-7091.
Hoffman said those most vulnerable to COVID-19 are individuals 65 and over and anyone with underlying health conditions.
“I’m not saying that anyone that is below that is not susceptible, but those 65 and over, and with underlying conditions are at higher risk –ájust the same as the flu,” she said.
If diagnosed with COVID-19, individuals that do not require medical attention will need to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, or per CDC guidelines. Individuals requiring medical attention will be treated onsite as long as medical attention is necessary.
Duckworth said its important for the public to follow best practices as recommended by the CDC, such as proper hand-washing, social distancing, and to make sure shared spaces and items are properly disinfected, such as doorknobs, counter tops and high-touch surfaces.
“If you’re sick, for crying out loud, stay home. Whether you think it’s COVID-19 or the flu, you need to stay home,” Duckworth said.
When asked how long it’s anticipated that COVID-19 will remain an issue, Duckworth and Hoffman are not sure, as information is rapidly changing.
In terms of decisions for businesses to change work schedules or plans, employers in Union County and surrounding areas were meeting with their corporate executives and staff to assess a plan of action. Duckworth and Hoffman said they been in touch with local employers to address their concerns and to assist with contingency planning as needed.
On Saturday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that community spread of the coronavirus is now present in Iowa.
“Community spread occurs when individuals have been infected with the virus and public health cannot specifically identify the source of the infection or determine how or where they became infected,” she said.
As of Saturday, affected counties affected include Pottawattamie, Carroll, Harrison, Dallas and Johnson. Nebraska health officials announced a community-spread infection Saturday afternoon.
“Due to the detection of community spread there are new recommendations for individuals with underlying conditions and all Iowans should be prepared for cancellations and disruptions in routine activities,” Reynolds said.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 22 people in Iowa have tested positive for COVID-19.
Creston Community School District, Mayflower Christian Heritage School, Lenox Community Schools, Mount Ayr Community School District, Murray Community School, Southwest Valley Schools and Discovery Kids Preschool will be closed and all activities canceled until further notice.
St. Malachy Catholic School, Orient-Macksburg Community Schools and East Union Community Schools are currently on spring break. No further information was available at press time.
Bedford Community School District will be closed and all activities canceled until after spring break — April 14.
Diagonal Community School District School will be closed and all activities canceled until April 13.
Discovery Kids Preschool, St. Malachy Catholic School, Orient-Macksburg Community Schools, and East Union Community Schools are currently on spring break. No further information was available at press time.
Southwestern Community College is on spring break until March 20. All offices will be closed March 20, as originally scheduled. Face-to-face classes will transition to an online delivery format beginning March 23. Classes will be delivered online until April 3.
On March 11, COVID-19 was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.
According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide and community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries.
A complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Cases have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.
A list of local closures and delays will be available online at www.crestonnews.com and on the CNA Facebook and Twitter feeds. Information will be made public as it becomes available.