GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia Health Department held a question-and-answer session via its Facebook page Sunday where it shared its knowledge of the COVID-19 virus and ongoing policies surrounding health professionals attempts to address it.
Among information the health department addressed, it noted that health departments are responsible for population health while hospitals are responsible for individual patient health. The department and the state of Ohio’s goal is to prevent hospitals and other such healthcare providers from becoming overwhelmed with a surge of COVID-19 patients.
One will often hear the phrase “flatten the curve” in popular use today. If one considers a line on a graph the number of beds and available resources utilized by health professionals over time as a hypothetical constant and a wave of sickness flowing over a period of time as going up and down, a sudden spike in that wave can raise above the line, thus signifying that healthcare resources are overloaded due to too many cases of a given sickness or other health problems. By spreading the load of sickness or a health problem, this “flattens the curve” and prevents healthcare resources from being overloaded. Overloaded healthcare providers and resources can mean that patients aren’t getting the care they need.
The department does this by ensuring positive cases are isolated and their contacts have been put into quarantine.
Among its other responsibilities, the department works with hospitals to report and handle positive COVID-19 patients; it looks to manage personal protective equipment from national and state stockpiles; it works to communicate with health agencies at all levels of government as possible as well as provide updates to the public.
Following are a few of the questions and answers from the Gallia Health Department’s social media post.
Q: Do we contact businesses if a positive individual was there?
A: Yes we do. We don’t give any information about the individual but we work with the businesses so they can help with tracking of individuals who were there around the same time. If this doesn’t work we would announce publicly.
Question submitted by reader of the Facebook page: “If infected person had been to Walmart, how can the people be notified that were also there at the same time? How would you know who was there?”
Gallia Health Department answer: “…If an individual tested positive and visited a large store such as Walmart we would announce to the public the specific time so that anyone who could have possibly came into contact with the individual would know to watch for symptoms and quarantine for 14 days. We would compile a list of those individuals and then, if they would start to show symptoms, we could get them tested quicker because they had contact with a lab confirmed case. We would work with the store to track down as many individuals as possible. Now not everyone in the store would be high risk but we would do our best to narrow down and focus on the individuals with contact.”
Question submitted by reader of the Facebook page: “What are your thoughts on all the ‘homemade’ masks that are being made? Is the purpose of people masking to prevent someone from getting it or passing it?
Last thing….can you please put some education out we can share about all the people wearing plastic or other gloves from consumers wearing them in the stores and from cashiers and drive through workers wearing them during an entire shift”
Gallia Health Department answer: “…It would definitely be to help stop people from spreading it, not from getting it. With asymptotic people being carriers and not knowing they’re sick this would help prevent them from spreading through occasional cough and talking. However, I’m unsure of the data that shows the virus particle can’t be expelled through a cloth mask. The primary benefit would be individuals not touching their mouth or nose. We hope individuals don’t get a false sense of security when wearing these masks. Social distancing and staying home if you’re sick is the best recommendation. As far as the individuals wearing gloves I’ll type something up and post it so people can share. Unless proper donning and doffing procedures are followed it won’t help much. We would recommend drive through workers wash their hands frequently and not rely on gloves for protection.”
The health department also stated now that the Ohio Department of Health lab and other hospitals doing in-house testing have relaxed their testing criteria their turn around time is much quicker. Generally within 24 hours.
For more information, search for the Gallia County Health Department page on Facebook.
Dean Wright contributed to this article.