Panic response to health scare unnecessary

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Emergency management director says plans are ready

Reports around Monett and surrounding communities on Friday documented panic shopping on Friday, spawned by concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.

David Compton, Barry County emergency management director, said the wild shopping sprees witnessed at local stores is unjustified in light of this specific health concern.

"Even if you were asked to isolate or ordered to quarantine for three weeks or less, that does not justify buying six months of supplies," Compton said. "Why do you need a case of toilet paper? How much do you go through in three weeks?"

Compton said he has coordinated responses with several different groups.

"Our message has always been people need to use common sense," he said. "Buy the regular supplies you would buy in a week. Panic buying doesn't do anything except keeping the next person from having what they need. I feel very confident that we will be able to address this emergency."

According to the latest statistics, Compton said 81 percent of people who contract the COVID-19 coronavirus will have mild to moderate symptoms. The 18 percent who develop severe symptoms are older and have chronic medical symptoms. Four percent of those people may die.

Actor Tom Hanks, he noted, who has the virus, is in Australia, where there are many cases, and has type 2 diabetes, making him one of the higher risk cases.

"We are encouraging people that if you feel you have symptoms, do not call 911," Compton said. "Do not go to urgent care. Generally, we recommend calling your primary care doctor, explain your symptoms and tell if you have traveled to a place where the virus is more common or been with people who had it. Tell your doctor's office if you've had exposure to when you arrive, and they can isolate you. We recommend you call your doctor or Telehealth provider. That may be a nice first step, coming from an isolated area. Telehealth is usually faster and cheaper. Tell them why you think you have an infection and get their advice.

“If you are in that 18 percent and have real severe trouble breathing, call 911 and say you suspect you have the virus.”

Compton said tests for the COVID-19 infection are available, but only by a doctor's request. He said staff will find a test kit if needed.

Compton and Bonnie Witt-Schulte, the Lawrence County emergency management director, met with Roger Brock, the Barry County Health Department administrator, two weeks ago to review the county's pandemic plan developed several years ago. Compton met with Brock again on Friday.

"I feel very comfortable with our pandemic plan," Compton said. "There are no cases in any county surrounding Barry County now. Our best move is to follow our plan."

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