Allegan County prepares for COVID-19

Michigan’s positive cases climbed to 53 over weekend
By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

Local public health officials are closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus, said Lindsay Maunz, public information officer for the Allegan County Health Department.

Tuesday, Maunz said, “We continue to work closely with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Allegan County Emergency Management to plan and prepare. We are aggressively investigating all potential contacts of those tested and those needing screening for potential travel exposure.”

All of those efforts are to “flatten the curve,” the idea that delaying the virus’ spread will at least lessen a large spike in need for intensive medical care. The health system can only help so many severely ill patients; the fewer who need it at the same time the better to avoid death.

“Those who are waiting for test results to come back are put in self-isolation and their close contacts are being self-quarantined,” she said.

 

Hotlines

The health department has set up the (269) 686-4546 hotline that is attended from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

The Allegan County Emergency Management Office has set up a recorded information line at (269) 686-4570 to provide the latest information about COVID-19 in Allegan County.

Allegan County has also set up a Facebook group page called “Feed the Need.” The social media site is designed to encourage collaboration among nonprofits and volunteers to help those in need during the COVID-19 crisis get access to necessities.

The state’s coronavirus hotline is 888-535-6136, available daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those with questions about medical emergencies or their individual health should instead call their doctor.

 

Cases

The health department provided the latest numbers, all as of Monday. Globally, there have been 153,517 cases with 5,735 deaths

Here in the United States, there have been 1,629 cases as of Monday morning causing 41 deaths. It has showed up in 46 states as well as the District of Columbia.

The number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Michigan grew to 53 as of Monday, according to www.michigan.gov/coronavirus. The state reports 389 had qualified for testing; 30 test results were pending. Another 809 individuals had been referred for assessment and monitoring from airport quarantine stations, self-referrals, close contacts of those in pending investigations and health care provider referrals entered by local health departments.

Allegan County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but it does have 11 individuals currently under investigation.

Three have tested negative; the other eight still have test results pending.

Maunz said, “Those who are waiting for test results to come back are put in self-isolation and their close contacts are being self-quarantined.”

The county has monitored a total of 22; it’s currently monitoring 16.

 

Preparations

Asked if hospitals in the county were prepared to treat severe cases of COVID-19, Maunz said Tuesday hospitals could best answer that question themselves. Ascension Allegan General Hospital did not respond by our press deadline, but Maunz said local public health officials were cataloging the personal protective gear among public safety, health care and community agencies to make sure they can be allocated to the greatest need as it arises.

“Our hospitals are equipped to care for the acutely ill patients and transferring to the most appropriate hospital care,” Maunz said. “It is very important that individuals don’t seek care or medical guidance if they are not ill. If someone is experiencing a mild illness, please call your medical provider or potentially a health insurance sponsor tele-health for guidance. We do have concerns with overburdening our health care system and those who are extremely ill are not able to get the care they need.

“We are working with our health care providers on providing up-to-date access. We are meeting virtually, weekly, to update community leaders and understand their needs or concerns of those they serve.”

 

Fast-developing

State officials began addressing the issue March 10 with a declaration of a state of emergency. By March 12, public gatherings were limited to 250.

On March 14, Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order prohibited non-essential staff and visitors from entering health care and residential care and juvenile justice facilities through April 5. Any entering those places must be screened, and entry is barred to those with symptoms of illness as well as those who have had contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed diagnosis.

That same day, the governor enacted enhanced restrictions on price gouging.

On March 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the public reschedule any event with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

March 16 saw the closure of gathering spaces such as bars and gyms and the dining areas of restaurants.

Currently, there is no vaccine to treat COVID-19; such a treatment is approximately 1 year to 18 months away.

 

Don’t panic

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is the chief deputy director for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

At the governor’s press conference Sunday, March 15, she said, “We do not need to panic... however, as a community, we do have to take this seriously.

“If we do not limit the speed with which new people are infected, there will be serious consequences. The school closures and banning of assemblages are important and will save lives.”

She said testing at the state lab was proceeding apace, though was maxed out at 115 analyzed per day, admitting results can take as long as 48 to 72 hours for a response.

“We are developing that testing strategy (with local hospitals),” she said. “We continue to request supplies from the federal government to test as many people as possible.”

 

COVID-19

County health officials said patients with confirmed infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19 is to:

• If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call the nearest hospital.  

• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

• Avoid contact with people who are sick.

• If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.

• Replace handshakes with elbow bumps.

• Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting.

The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. 

Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

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