Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this week's episode, you'll hear from Johnson County Emergency Response and public health experts. They'll take some of the common questions we're getting and tell you what you need to know to keep you and your family safe and healthy.
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Theresa Freed [00:00:28] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. On March 7th, The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed Johnson County's first presumptive positive case of coronavirus COVID-19. Within one week's time, several more cases were confirmed. A majority of the cases were travel-related. But since then, we're also seeing some that are not covered. 19 is receiving widespread attention because it's a new virus and the public doesn't have immunity and there is no vaccine. Johnson County has been busy communicating every bit of new information it can share with the public on social media and our web page, jocogov.org/coronavirus. We're also working with our media partners to share information. But as expected, we're getting lots of questions as we continue to see movement to encourage distance between ourselves and others. People are feeling concerned. So we want to make sure we're getting you the information you need. To get us started we're going to talk to Dr. Ryan Jacobsen. He said Johnson County EMS system medical director. So who's most at risk of getting COVID-19?
Dr. Ryan Jacobsen [00:01:26] Who's most at risk are those over the age of 50 and those with underlying lung disease or other co-morbidities? A co-morbidity is something like diabetes, immunocompromised, where your immune system doesn't work as well as it should. For instance, those on chemotherapy, those are getting an active cancer therapies. Those with underlying neurologic disorders, those with any sort of end-stage diseases that are elderly, older. The older you are, the more at risk you are for this virus. But in general, if you're not in that high risk group, there should be a little bit less concerning for you.
Theresa Freed [00:02:00] Generally speaking, do people need to wear a mask?
Dr. Ryan Jacobsen [00:02:03] The general public does not need to wear a mask. The people that we're asking to wear masks are those that are infected or that have symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath. The biggest goal with wearing a mask is to prevent the spread of droplets and the airborne passage of that virus. And so wearing a mask eliminates that threat of breathing out and coughing out those virus particles that could infect others. So we don't think that people in the general public should be wearing masks unless they are a health care provider providing very close care to that patient. And what should people do if they become ill in general, reserving 9-1-1 and emergency department visits for those that are very sick. So people, again, in that high risk group that are unable to care for themselves at home or have severe signs and symptoms such as unable to catch their breath.
Theresa Freed [00:02:52] How is COVID-19 similar to the flu?
Dr. Ryan Jacobsen [00:02:55] So COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? It's a different class of virus than influenza. But they look really similar as far as the symptoms. They'll typically cause fever, body aches, cough, shortness of breath. They can cause any sort of upper respiratory type infections. So for many people that are healthy with a normal immune system who are younger, it will look like the common cold or a case of the flu. For those that are immunocompromised or older coronavirus, this is a novel coronavirus, meaning we don't have immunity as a population. Those that are a risk can have some more severe disease. But again, only those with higher co-morbidities that are older, older, or at least older than 50 is who the targeting the virus is targeting now. But there are different viruses, but they act very similar. Most people won't know the difference between influenza from seasonal influenza and coronavirus. It will look very similar.
Theresa Freed [00:03:48] So how is 9-1-1 responding to calls of possible COVID-19?
Dr. Ryan Jacobsen [00:03:52] So we've implemented some things at the 9-1-1 system at the dispatch center to where we are trying to prescreen and identify those who call 9-1-1 who are at high risk for having a febrile or fever-like illness that could look like influenza or coronavirus. We're trying to do some prescreen so that the responders on the way to the call will get some advance notice that this patient's got a fever and a cough. And we're going to take the appropriate precautions to keep our responders safe.
Theresa Freed [00:04:17] Now we're going to hear from Mary Beverly. She's the interim director for the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. So the first question here, when should people get tested?
Mary Beverly [00:04:27] You should only get tested for COVID-19 if you meet the proper case definition that's passed through by the Centers for Disease Control and Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Our county health department is well aware of that criteria and would communicate that to you. You need to be symptomatic in order to be tested?
Theresa Freed [00:04:46] And how do our listeners get tested?
Mary Beverly [00:04:47] You can get tested by first following up with your physician. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, speak with your doctor if you have one. If you don't have a doc. You can contact Johnson County Department of Health and Environment if you're a Johnson County resident.
Theresa Freed [00:05:04] Another big question we're getting, is it a cost for the test?
Mary Beverly [00:05:07] The test has no charge right now. According to the president's order, there will be no fee for the test.
Theresa Freed [00:05:15] And does a positive test impact treatment at all?
Mary Beverly [00:05:17] A positive test would not impact treatment. However, you should isolate yourself at home until you are informed by public health authorities that you can be released. There is only supportive care for COVID-19, which means essentially if you are being treated by a doctor, they would ensure that you have plenty of fluids, that you're isolated appropriately, and that you're not having shortness of breath or anything that would indicate pneumonia.
Theresa Freed [00:05:44] And next, we'll hear from Dr. LeMaster. He's the public health officer for Johnson County. He's going to share with us details regarding travels and quarantines. So first question, a lot of people are concerned about this. Is it OK for people to leave their house at this time?
Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:05:58] There is no guidance that we have right now in Johnson County that people need to stay inside their house all the time.
Theresa Freed [00:06:06] And what does a quarantine mean?
Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:06:08] Self-quarantine means to stay at home for that period of time for 14 days. It means not leaving the house during that period of time. However, no one is going to come around from the police or any of the other agencies to check on you, to tell you, to see whether you've actually been doing that or not.
Theresa Freed [00:06:27] What's the difference between quarantine and isolation? We've heard both of those terms used.
Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:06:31] Quarantine is what happens after you've had an increased risk event. That is, if you've traveled to these high risk places or even more if you've been in contact with someone who you know to have tested positive for COVID. Those people need to be quarantined, but they're not yet sick. Isolation is more about after somebody actually has come down with the disease. And we're now trying to prevent them from spreading it to other people. That's a totally different sort of situation where that person needs to have separate eating utensils, probably live in a separate part of the house from the rest of their family, have limited contact with even their family members and especially with people outside the house.
Theresa Freed [00:07:16] So wouldn't would people in your home need to quarantine those in your home?
Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:07:21] Don't need to self-quarantine if they weren't in the same kind of exposure situation that you were. For instance, if you traveled to another part of the of the country and they didn't travel, then you need to quarantine when you come back. Probably for safety's sake, you should live in a separate part of the house or have less contact with them while you're in the time of quarantine, just in case you should become positive or get sick during that time. However, we're not requiring people to quarantine it because they've been in contact with a person who was a contact. We're only asking people to quarantine if they've been to these high risk areas or if they were in contact with somebody who has a case.
Theresa Freed [00:08:06] And what can our listeners do to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:08:10] The most important thing that you can do to minimize the spread of COVID is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds while singing "Happy Birthday to You" or something of that nature to help you remember to do it long enough before you eat, after you eat, and after you go to the bathroom. Every single time. You should not put anything in your mouth to eat. Not snacks, not anything, not pills, not anything without washing your hands. That's very important. If you have a cold or any kind of symptoms, you need to stay home and not go to work. That's important. If you have to go out for any reason, you you need to wear some kind of protection over your mouth like a mask so that no one else would have be exposed to your coughing, sneezing, or if you do cough or sneeze, cough or sneeze into your elbow. Please. We need to also change the way that we're greeting each other too. Hugs and handshakes probably should stop now. Fist bumps. Elbow bumps. Namaste. Anyway, other way that you want to greet your greet one another. I think it's perfectly OK, but we need to reduce the amount of contact.
Theresa Freed [00:09:19] Finally, we're going to hear from Dan Robeson. He's the deputy director of emergency management. He's going to share with us details of the county's state of emergency declaration to start off with what is a state of emergency?
Dan Robeson [00:09:31] The state of emergency is a mechanism that is available to counties through state statute that allows counties to indicate that they are in a situation where they need additional resources and may need to implement different orders to ensure for the safety of their community.
Theresa Freed [00:09:50] And why are we declaring a state of emergency?
Dan Robeson [00:09:53] We're declaring a state of emergency because we want to ensure that we can swiftly get the additional resources that we. May need to deal with this public health emergency.
Theresa Freed [00:10:03] And how will a state of emergency impact our listeners?
Dan Robeson [00:10:07] It may be different and it may be some elements of that may be challenging. However, it's going to make a big difference in our ability to handle this public health emergency.
Theresa Freed [00:10:17] And last question, how long will we have an emergency declaration?
Dan Robeson [00:10:21] We will continue to monitor the situation in coordination with the cities and other partners to see how long we'll leave these orders in place.
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