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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 04/21/2020

Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode, you'll hear from Johnson County public health experts who will talk about the phased approach the county will take when it's time to reopen the county and the economy. Find out why testing plays such a large role in understanding COVID-19. And its impact on our community. Finally, should you or should you not wear masks and gloves in public? We'll have the answers.

Announcer [00:00:22] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed [00:00:35] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Theresa Freed, a Johnson County, resident and employee of Johnson County Government. It's been more than a month now since Johnson County implemented a stay-at-home order. For some, it's been a challenging time adjusting to a new normal. People are working from home, limiting exposure to others in the community and wondering when will this end? On this episode, you'll hear directly from some of the decision makers who are carefully understanding and evaluating every aspect of this pandemic. We'll start with Johnson County public health officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster.

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:01:09] It's still too early to be able to make a clear judgment whether cases and hospitalizations are decreasing. We're monitoring trends very closely. We have a dashboard on the county web site which allows concerned residents and others to be able to track what's going on. All we can say right now is that we're measuring the trends and we want to do what is safe for everyone. We do know that there will be phases in which we have to roll back the restrictions. That will take place over time. That will be a gradual process in which we monitor what's going on over time. We may have to be ready to reimpose restrictions in the future if we start to see a sharp increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations. We have to watch what's going on. Monitor the public health, monitor the trends in cases and hospitalizations and make safe decisions for all the residents in Johnson County.

Theresa Freed [00:02:16] Dr. LeMaster also has more on antibody testing that we're hearing so much about.

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:02:21] There have been a lot of questions about antibody testing and trying to better understand the number of people in the community that may have been exposed or already infected. We're looking very carefully at the evidence that is there for using these tests in a way that will actually be helping us make public health decisions. There may be use of antibodies in the future to help us with that, but the evidence at this point still suggests that more work is needed before they're ready to use on a broad scale in public health control efforts.

Theresa Freed [00:03:01] At the April 20th, Board of County Commissioner Special Meeting focused on COVID-19, commissioners approved a new task force. Here's Chairman Ed Eilert to talk about that group's work.

Ed Eilert [00:03:11] The commission, Board of County Commissioners, has approved a task force of 14 individuals from a broad section of the community. That task force's responsibility is to review and develop some guidelines that can be used as a phase in of our community, businesses and other community activity. Their report, we anticipate will be available next week. We'll be looking at the White House guidelines. Some Chamber guidelines and John Hopkins University. So utilizing that information, looking at our own community, we anticipate that the task force will be able to outline a plan so that when the stay-at-home order ends and that's not a specific date at this point, we will be able to begin a phase out. When the phase out begins depends upon additional positive data from our public health research, our testing programs. It also requires us to be able to track and do more testing than what we're able to do now. Thank you to the community. We're making excellent progress. And if we continue to put our shoulder to the wheel, I think we're going to be able to get there. And so, again, thank you very much.

Theresa Freed [00:04:45] Although we don't know at this point how quickly the county and economy will reopen, we can all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. The guidance is still true. It's important to limit gatherings over 10 people, increase physical distance with others to 6 feet or more, and stay home when you can. We did get some encouraging news, though, at the BOCC special meeting. In a recent drive thru COVID-19 testing clinic that the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment held encouraging results. This is part of the county's larger expanded testing plan. The recent clinic included essential workers, so those who have been reporting to work as they did before the pandemic. Child care workers, first responders, restaurant and grocery store staff.

Ed Eilert [00:05:27] We do have good news in the data that was presented by our public health department officials. And it's also shown on our dashboard, on our Web site. The leveling of the hospital utilization, as well as some of the positive information back from our most recent tests. Last Friday, we tested about 185, 184 first responders, health care professionals and retail clerks. And we have the results back from all but 13 of them, and they all tested negative. So that's good news. Our community is moving in the right direction. And it's thanks to everyone who has sacrificed. Who have met the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. So we hope that good news continues. And thank you very much for your willingness to to follow the guidelines that have been presented.

Theresa Freed [00:06:37] Johnson County is doing a great job adhering to the guidelines, but Johnson County EMS Medical Director Dr. Ryan Jacobsen says he's seeing something that could be hurting more than it's helping.

Dr. Ryan Jacobsen [00:06:48] One of the challenges of wearing gloves in a grocery store or in a public place. What it does is it tends to give a false sense of security in the person wearing the gloves that they're not having to perform hand hygiene. So when you go in a store wearing gloves and you shop and touch, all the things that you buy. And you sack your grocery, open the doors and you do everything with one pair of gloves on. You've essentially touched all kinds of things and you have a sense of security that your hands are clean. But you've cross-contaminated everything else, and when everybody is doing that together they're not doing good hand hygiene. COVID-19 does not survive good hand hygiene. COVID-19, is very easily cleaned off of your hands with soap and water, alcohol gels and we want to encourage frequent hand hygiene when you're out in public touching things. So we will have a common sense about not touching things that are contaminated. So the gloves may give people a false sense of security. We also want to conserve those gloves for people in healthcare community that need them and who are taking care of those patients for us.

Theresa Freed [00:08:03] And finally, here's Department of Health and Environment epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh, who has details on a new dashboard to track COVID-19 activity in Johnson County.

Elizabeth Holzschuh [00:08:13] Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, in partnership with the Department of Technology and Innovation, is launching our brand new dashboard with coronavirus data for our Johnson County residents. This dashboard is going to provide a wealth of information both for our policymakers as well as for you in the public. It will include things about how many cases we have and how that's looked over time, not just out when we're reporting these, but more importantly, when people have began becoming ill. This is a really important piece as we continue to monitor the situation in Johnson County, because what matters is when people became sick and when they began showing symptoms and what we expect to see as we move on in this outbreak. And as our control measures, our stay-at-home orders, our physical distancing work, we will see that plateau and then start to decrease as the number of infections reduce in our community. This will also have a lot of information about who is becoming sick in our community. Race, ethnicity data, age and other demographics. And we're also including information about what the symptoms are that we're seeing in individuals in Johnson County, as well as the preexisting conditions and hospitalizations. We also know there's been a big interest in the ability to see geography. We live in a big community with a lot of different municipalities. We're also publishing a zip code map that will show you how many confirmed coronavirus cases are in each zip code in Johnson County. Now, all of this is really important because we know that the stay at home Aadhar has been challenging. We know that it's hurt our economy. What we really want to do is make decisions based on data and what we're seeing here in Johnson County. There've been a lot of predictions, a lot of models that we've heard about, about when this disease is going to peak. And really what we want to be paying attention to is not necessarily what those models say, but what we're seeing here in Johnson County. So we're going to continue to watch when people became sick. And then really more importantly for this disease, what the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths looked like over time. So these are all pieces of the puzzle that we are looking at here in Johnson County and the policymakers are looking at in order to make the best decisions for our community based on what we're seeing on the ground.

Announcer [00:10:16] You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.