Please take the COVID-19 virus seriously
“It’s here and it’s serious,” Holley Rose, Ripley County Health Director told The Versailles Republican this week. Speaking of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, as of March 30, 2020, there were 31 cases in Ripley County alone and one death has been reported.
Ripley, Decatur and Franklin counties seem to be the cluster area for the virus as of now. The local health department is working around the clock to inform people and track those who have contracted the virus so they can isolate others who might have been at the same place, in an effort to protect residents.
“If you test positive, it’s crucial right now to know where you have been in the past two weeks,” Rose noted. She said each morning when she puts on her health department shirt that bears the logo: Prevent-Promote-Protect, she is acutely aware of her job and takes that seriously. She has been working behind-the scenes securing ways to help residents.
County Health Officer Dr. David Welsh is working with several agencies he is affiliated with to help turn the tables in Ripley County. Everyday he is in contact with those who have tested positive in the county along with talking and learning from associates with the American Medical Association, the Center for Disease Control Task Force, Indiana State Health Department – even colleagues in Italy. Those talks produce an abundance of knowledge of how the virus works and how it can be different.
One of the simple things people can and absolutely should be doing is washing their hands. It’s so basic, but imperative at this time, according to Dr. Welsh. It might sound like a broken record, but if we don’t wash our hands, we’ve missed the first line of defense.
“At first we thought this would be the hardest on our elder population,” Dr. Welsh said. And, while that is true if they contract the virus, he said right now they aren’t really the ones getting it in the county. He said people anywhere from 20-60 years old are contracting the virus and getting really sick.
Social distancing is a new phrase in our language now and will remain so for quite some time. Both Dr. Welsh and Rose noted the importance of keeping that six -foot perimeter when interacting with others if you absolutely have to. First, stay home and away from others if at all possible. But, if you have to go to the store for medicines, food, etc., wash your hands, wear cotton garden gloves, and when you get home, take the gloves off, the clothes you are wearing and put them in the washing machine immediately. If you can’t get a surgical type mask, that’s no problem. Get with a group who is making the cotton ones. They are washable too.
Dr. Welsh says this is reminiscent of the days of WWII in the sense that everyone has a role to play. Back then, metal and rubber drives were held and women saved grease drippings for the war effort. He said “If we all pitch in, we’ll be getting back to normal sooner.” The best ways to protect yourself include washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home when you’re sick, cover your cough or sneeze, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Check on home-bound neighbors, friends, or family by calling them. Maybe if you’re making the trip to the store or pharmacy, ask if you can pick something up for them. Keep a safe distance when delivering the items.
COVID-19 is mostly spread from an infected person to others in these ways: respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing; close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands; and rarely, fecal contamination. “We ask that the community redouble their efforts to protect yourself and family with social distancing, hand washing, and self-isolation when appropriate,” Dr. Welsh noted.
“We’re all in this together,” Dr. Welsh said. The local health department is in constant contact with the state health department and CDC, along with others in the profession who have been fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. “I can assure the folks in Ripley County that my colleagues at any of the (state organizations) etc. care about what happens here,” Dr. Welsh said.
While Ripley County has not gone to a Red Code, which means emergency travel only, Decatur County made the announcement that they would enforce the Red Code beginning Thursday, April 2.
Remember this is new. So, even the medical community is navigating their way through unchartered territory right now. Dr. Welsh invites residents to go online to the local health department at www.ripleyhealth.com or call their office at 812-689-5751 if they have questions. “We all have questions, and we would love to answer any that we can at this time,” he concluded.