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Threat Preparedness

It's (past) time to take COVID-19 seriously

It's (past) time to take COVID-19 seriously

Jul. 8, 2020

By Mary Wade Burnside

Well, here we are. It’s the middle of summer and people want to think about fun in the sun.

And, sure, it would be ideal if Monongalia County Health Department thought the best use of this space would be how to grill safely or making sure pools are suitable for swimming or keeping hydrated during this hot weather.

Ah, the good old days. Although that’s all still good advice.

But as COVID-19 cases rise, in Monongalia County as well as in West Virginia and several other states, it’s (past) time to start taking this virus seriously.

It took Monongalia County from March 19 to June 30 to reach 162 COVID-18 cases. In one week, we’ve more than doubled that number, to 360 and counting.

Added to the mix are community spread COVID-19 cases among individuals who visited bars, restaurants, gyms and other places in the past few weeks.

And on the horizon is the return of West Virginia University students, faculty and staff, who will be tested for COVID-19 before school starts.

Monongalia County Health Department’s disease investigators and contact tracers, who are already overwhelmed by 200 new cases in the past week, will also be performing those tasks for WVU.

To be clear, just with the new spike in cases, this means not only contacting 200 individuals who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, but also any of their close contacts who will be advised to self-monitor for symptoms and even potentially to quarantine.
Already a Herculean task, contact tracing is made more difficult by individuals who hang up or curse out the caller or who are reluctant to name close contacts or provide good information on how to reach them.

So how can we turn this around? First, if you are called and named as a contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, please take this information seriously. It’s in the best interest of you, your family as well as your community if you follow the advice provided by the disease investigator.

Also, Monongalia County Health Department has been driving home key points on the best ways to remain safe during a pandemic: Wear a mask in public, maintain a social distance from others of six feet and wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Some listen, others do not. As we’ve stated before, maybe they’re done with COVID-19, even though COVID-19 clearly isn’t done with us. We hope that Gov. Jim Justice’s recent order for anyone ages 9 and up to wear a mask in public buildings helps.

But if everyone wants to have football with full stadiums and big, in-person parties with their friends anytime soon, it’s going to require buckling down now.

Scientists overwhelmingly state that wearing masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. States that mandate mask usage — and countries in which citizens consistently wear them — are faring much better than those in which facial coverings are spotty. COVID-19 cases are decreasing in the former and increasing in the latter.

Plus, I’m no scientist but it seems pretty obvious to figure out: Wearing a mask, especially coupled with social distancing, will go a long way toward keeping people’s respiratory droplets away from each other. I recently saw a photo of one of those fights between a baseball coach and an umpire. You know the kind, where they are up in each other’s faces, mouths wide open, screaming at each other. I know it was taken before the pandemic, but now it seems like a horrifying scenario.

As we’ve noted before, individuals have spread the virus when they have COVID-19 without any symptoms, or during the infectious period before the onset of symptoms. Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you can’t pass the virus along to co-workers, friends, family and yes, even strangers. If you want to emulate a historical figure, it shouldn’t be Typhoid Mary.

Wearing a mask or facial covering is such a tiny, tiny favor to ask that can go a long way toward helping others.

If everyone pitches in, we can get back on track. And then hopefully next year, summer will be more normal, with celebrations, gatherings, sports and all the other activities everyone is missing.

It’s up to us.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.

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