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Resources available for preparing for coronavirus

By Staff | Mar 13, 2020

Although the coronavirus has dominated national news and pushed the stock market down lately, many rural North Dakota residents feel insulated from the disease that so far only affects the lives of people far away.

Information from the North Dakota Department of Health recommends residents stay on track with their day-to-day activities, but be prepared for a possible spread to places like Pierce County.

A statement on the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, on the Centers for Disease Control’s website, cdc.gov, read Wednesday, “That this disease has caused severe illness, including illness resulting in death is concerning, especially since it has also shown sustained person-to-person spread in several places. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.”

The CDC updated their information that evening to classify the situation as a pandemic.

The statement continued, “This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC’s risk assessment will be updated as needed.”

Concern for the disease has impacted public gatherings lately in states where the virus has been identified. According to information from the North Dakota Department of Health on Wednesday, one case of coronavirus had been identified as “presumptive positive,” meaning testing at the NDDH had confirmed the presence of coronavirus, but a review of the results was pending with the CDC.

Information from the North Dakota Department of Health indicated the positive result was in a Ward County man in his 60s who had traveled to the east coast of the United States and had contact with a person positive for the virus there. As of Thursday morning, 27 people in this state had been monitored for the virus, with 27 tested in total. Twelve of those test results were negative, 14 had results pending, and seven patients were being monitored this week. No patients in North Dakota had been hospitalized and no patients had died from the illness.

Pierce County Public Health Nurse Samantha Wentz told the Tribune, “What I’m hearing is to not panic but be prepared. The North Dakota Department of Health held a briefing yesterday and also today for commercial establishments, daycares and schools. They held that briefing just so everyone is aware of what they can do to prepare.”

Information on how North Dakotans can prepare for the virus and any impact to the public, such as school and daycare closures, is available at health.nd.gov.

The website also carries information on protecting elderly and vulnerable family members from the virus and encourages developing a family plan to help those caring for a loved one infected with the virus.

In a press conference Thursday morning, the NDDOH recommended limiting visits by the public to skilled nursing facilities.

Wentz said the CDC also had information on preventing the spread of the virus and planning for households affected on cdc.gov.

“The CDC has a few handouts,” Wentz said. “One is how to keep the workplace safe; one is how to keep the schools safe; keeping homes safe and businesses safe.”

“The most important thing is good hand hygiene, hand washing,” Wentz noted. “Stop shaking hands; wave instead or just verbally greet somebody. Clean your hands at the door. If you’re going in somewhere or out somewhere, wash your hands before and after touching doorknobs.”

Wentz added, “At a workplace, you can send emails to remind your staff, ‘When’s the last time you washed your hands?'”

“Avoid touching your face and if you’re coughing or sneezing, you should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue,” Wentz added. “Do not cough or sneeze into your hand.”

“Disinfecting surfaces, that helps,” Wentz noted. “Increasing ventilation even helps. So, having windows open if you can, now that it’s going to be nicer out will help.”

“As far as travel,” Wentz added, “if it’s a business meeting, see if you can do a meeting via videoconferencing instead. Look at the risks of travel before you’re going. Maybe consider postponing really large meetings or gatherings. Of course, if you’re feeling sick, stay at home. If you have a family member who’s sick, consider staying home.”

Wentz said symptoms of COVID-19 infection are a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Wentz said public health experts and the CDC “are saying if you’re going to get checked out or need to go to the hospital, you should call ahead of time just so that steps and measures are in place and they’re expecting you.”

“I’m unsure of (when safety protocols will ease up), being it’s a new virus. If it runs anything like flu season, hopefully there will be a decrease in cases and it will be more safe for people in terms of handshaking. But we don’t know.”

Wentz said for people infected with the coronavirus, “It may be hard to tell the difference (from the flu) because people can get a fever, shortness of breath and cough with the flu.”

“So, that is kind of the tricky part,” Wentz added. “One thing that helps is if you’ve had your flu shot, because then it may not be as likely to be influenza. You can still get influenza if you’ve had the flu shot, just a lesser case.”

Wentz added, “I’ve had a couple of questions at my office about whether I do testing (for COVID-19) here, and I don’t. “Patients would need to see a medical provider to get the testing.”

The Tribune spoke with Heart of America Medical Center CEO Jerry Jurena Wednesday evening. Jurena said no test kits were available at the hospital or the Johnson Clinic at that time. However, Jurena recommended individuals with flu-like respiratory symptoms call the clinic or hospital staff to inform them of their symptoms before coming in.

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