Local officials address response to COVID-19

Published 3:54 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Fire and EMS Chief Robert England addressed the community and explained that his department has been following the coronavirus closely for the last month but they have been following it more closely the last couple of days.

He told the community that he has been testing all his employees daily to make sure that they are able to perform their daily tasks and respond to calls.

“We just want to make sure that we are out in front of it,” England said. “It will diminish and we want to make sure to get good information out. If you are sick and running a fever at home, you may want to call your health care provider.”

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He reiterates that it is important to limit your contact with the general public.

“The last report I had this morning the closest cases that we are aware of are in Knox County, Tenn., Fayette County Kentucky, and Kingsport, Tenn.,” he explained. “I have no report of any in Virginia, not that it is not there but I have not received that report.”

Vicky Thompson, community chief nursing officer with Middlesboro ARH, gave a brief update about what they are doing to make sure that the community is taken care of throughout this process of navigating COVID-19.

“This is a brand new virus that just emerged at the end of 2019 in China and there is no immunity to it and that’s what makes it scary,” she explained.

She said there are a lot of rumors and misconceptions right now about the virus.

“Under the age of 60, 80% of people who contract this virus are not going to need to be hospitalized and probably won’t need to go to the doctor but you are going to need to self-quarantine for those 14 days,” Thompson stated. “There is a 14-day incubation period with this virus where you are not sick, you are asymptomatic but at the same time you could be spreading this virus by breathing or coughing.”

Thompson continued to explain that it was this reason that events are being cancelled and large groups of people in one area are being discouraged.

“It’s important that we adhere to that and cut that and cut the head of the snake off,” she said. “What we are doing at Middlesboro ARH, we have been very aggressive and working with our ARH system and have been in constant contact with the CDC and the Kentucky Department of Health and this thing is changing every day and how we are handling this is changing everyday.”

She said that they are cancelling all large events and they have altered their sick policy.

“All they have to do is call in and tell us they are sick and they stay home for 14 days and they are going to be given that without any repercussion,” she said of the sick policy. “We have a screening tool that is very simple. It asks questions such as if they have traveled, how high their temperature is.”

She said if you come into the hospital and you are screened and test positive, you will be taken care of at Middlesboro ARH.

“We are prepared to take care of our patients,” she said. “This is an evolving process and we are constantly reevaluating what is going right here in our community and around the nation but one of the things that we are going to do is keep checking with our departments.”

Dr. Charles Moore, who has been practicing internal medicine in the community for over 40 years addressed the crowd by emphasizing the importance of washing your hands and making sure you bleach and Lysol tabletops.

“Let me just get to the basics: the coronavirus has been around as long as humans have been on earth,” he began. “This is just a particularly different one that probably came from animals and mutated and why it’s different is … it stays on tabletops for three days now. The typical coronavirus or flu virus will stay 48 hours at most.”

He says that one of the things he tells his patients is that the reason healthcare workers have less colds and the flu during the season is because they wash their hands.

“It’s your number one enemy,” he said. “Wash your hands. Hands, hands, hands, and clean your countertops.”

He said the biggest concern coming up is allergy season.

“We didn’t have a winter and coming up next week, we are all going to have runny noses, scratchy eyes and deep voices and we are going to have a double whammy now,” he explained. “If you think you are sick or you are sick, do not go visit anybody — nursing homes especially. Try not to be around anybody. Do not go around people if you are sick.”

He said the other important thing is to stay out of the ER if you have a cold or the flu.

“Do you want to know what magic we have to give you? Nothing,” he said as he addressed the crowd. “We are going to say, ‘Take your Tylenol, your Motrin, get plenty to drink, and rest.’ Even if you come to the ER with the flu, you are going to give somebody else the flu and that can hurt people and it wouldn’t be intentional. So, wash your hands until your hands fall off and wipe your tabletops with bleach or Lysol and stay away from crowds. This will burn out.”

He stated that there is no need to panic.

“Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic, and don’t buy all the stuff from the store,” he exclaimed as he turned to Mayor Rick Nelson and asked, “Why are they buying all the toilet paper?”

Dr. Moore closed by again reiterating the importance of washing your hands.

During a question and answer session with the audience, the question was asked what the community needs to know to keep from panicking in case someone in the area tests positive.

“The message needs to be that this is not a death sentence,” Thompson answered. “People are recovering every day from this and what we hear the most are the bad things that are happening and like Dr. Moore said it will be a couple of days of misery for people but the important thing is to stay at home and wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face, and quarantine yourself — that doesn’t mean go to Walmart or someplace like that. The message is that it’s OK, don’t panic, use common sense about this because this too shall pass.”

Dr. Moore wanted to add that everyone who has had a cold has indeed had a coronavirus.

“Everybody in this room, if I tested you for every type of corona you would test positive from old colds,” he stated. “This is the new kind of supercharged cold virus. So, if you had a cold last year, odds are, you had a coronavirus, just not this one because this one is a bit more powerful.”

Several schools districts, businesses and other social gatherings are going to be taking some time away from holding anything that would encourage large crowds.

Chief England encouraged families to take this time and spend ittogether.

“I think we’ve stepped away from it in society to spend some time with each other,” he said. “Let’s not get out and let our kids have sleepovers, I’m going to restrict it at my house. Turning them loose in the mall and letting the mall be the babysitter is not the answer.”

To watch the information session in full, you can go to The Big 106.3 FM WRIL and for more information about COVID-19 from the State of Kentucky, you can visit www.kycovid19.ky.gov.

Friday morning, Middlesboro-Bell County Libraries Director Jeanna Cornett announced that all library programs are cancelled until April 13.

“This will include not only TTT but also all the painting classes, book clubs, and crock pot classes,” she said. “Thank you for your continued support of our library programs. We appreciate you so much.”

Other school districts, businesses, and social events that will be postponed can be found on the Middlesboro Daily News Facebook page.