Dearborn Co. Official Urges Preventive Measures For Coronavirus: 'That's All We're Left With'

Mar 13, 2020
Originally published on March 15, 2020 10:55 am

An increase in patients with mild and moderate respiratory symptoms is increasing the risk of people catching COVID-19 in Dearborn County, Ind.

"Unfortunately, when we see an increase of this it displaces the other patients who are really needing that urgent care," Highpoint Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Angela Scudder says. There are currently zero reported cases of COVID-19 in Dearborn County. If your symptoms worsen, she recommends contacting your primary care physician first to coordinate your next steps.

On Friday, the Trump Administration announced measures that would ramp up the speed of coronavirus testing. The U.S. government has gotten criticism for its slow response.

The Highpoint Health Hospital in Dearborn County is the only authorized place to get tested for COVID-19. Before hospital staff can test patients for the virus, they must contact the Indiana State Department of Health. If the hospital gets the greenlight, they send swabs to state officials for testing.

"Right now, it's not taking much time at all," Scudder says. "The state's been pretty much open and very accessible." Scudder says they've called the state a few times but none of their patients have met the criteria to get tested. A patient must have critical symptoms, test negative for Flu A, B and strep throat. 

So far 73 people have been tested throughout the state.  

Hospital officials say this method hasn't created hurdles. But Dearborn County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator John Blackwell says federal officials "better get on the ball with testing" if they want to get ahead of the virus. "You can't get a real good track of this or any disease unless you're doing some fairly widespread testing," he says. "If you're limiting testing to literally a few hundred people in a state you're not determining where issues potentially lie or any of that."

The Centers for Disease and Prevent Control says COVID-19 symptoms could include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Scudder says its best to not show up to the hospital unless your symptoms are worse than the flu or strep throat.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent the spread. The CDC recommends cleaning your hands often, avoiding close contact with others and other precautions.

"Those same things you hear about constantly throughout the day from every news source, that's what we're left with," he says in a frustrated tone. "We don't have an epidemiology department here, all we can do is try to see that locally we're doing what we can to help people get through this." He says they've talked to the homeless shelters and nursing homes to ensure people are taking preventative steps. Blackwell says his department hasn't been in conversation with Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati officials to coordinate efforts.

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