County officials address outbreak prevention

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Office of Emergency Management prepared for coronavirus

Editor's Note: Visit for up to date information on the COVID-19 outbreak statewide.

The Barry County Office of Emergency Management has released a trove of information regarding its preparations for dealing with COVID-19 (coronavirus) and how people can help avoid an outbreak locally.

David Compton said as of Tuesday morning, there are no cases of coronavirus in the county. There have been several who have presented to their primary care physicians with concerns about having coronavirus, but they either did not meet the guidelines for testing or tested negative. Barry County has tested three people, all of whom were negative, and they have a small number tests on hand. Compton said testing is available depending on the individual’s care provider and on the recommendation of a physician.

Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Lawrence County Emergency Management director, said there are no cases or suspected cases in Lawrence County either.

The health departments will also be notified of a positive test of any Barry or Lawrence county resident, even if the test is done out of the county or out of the state.

Statewide, there have been six confirmed cases, including two in Greene County, but no deaths.

“The Barry County Health Department and Office of Emergency Management have been working together on pandemic planning for over 15 years,” Compton said. “This living document allows us to adapt our response to each emerging highly contagious disease. Partners communicate frequently to ensure we have the latest information available.”

The Health Department is the lead agency in responding to contagious diseases. Director Roger Brock is in contact with state and local partners multiple times per day.

The Office of Emergency Management continues to support the preparedness, response, and recovery to this event. Compton is also speaking with state, regional and local organizations daily.

As of Tuesday, no declaration has been made in Barry County. The local emergency operations plan is to declare an emergency if there is a presumptive case in the county, which would open the county up to receiving federal assistance.

Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency for Missouri on March 13, and President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency nationally on the same day.

Regarding community events, federal recommendations are to avoid gatherings of 10 or more until April 1. Locally, officials are requesting the postponement of any activities that may attract 50 or more people.

Anyone can catch the coronavirus, and those most at risk are adults 60 and older, as well as those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Compton said anyone experiencing symptoms should stay home and call a primary care physician. If there is a severe problem breathing, call 911. Do not have close personal contact or share spaces with others.

Non-symptomatic persons should practice good prevention and avoid close contact with others, as all people may contract the disease and pass it to others, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Prevention methods include: washing hands often and for 20 seconds at a time; avoiding touching high-contact surfaces in public places, and if it is necessary, use a cloth, sleeve, glove or single finger, then us hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands; avoid touching of the face, nose and eyes; clean and disinfect homes and cars, especially on frequently touched surfaces; avoid crowds, especially indoors; and avoid any non-essential travel.

“Be prepared to recover at home, as most people will be able to remain at home,” Compton said. “Ensure that you have sufficient supplies for two to three weeks. It is not necessary to have large quantities of supplies.”

Panic buying is also discouraged.

“Retailers continue to receive regular shipments of grocery and household goods,” Compton said. “In many cases, these are being received on a daily basis. There is no indication that we will experience long-term shortages of food or other household items. Panic buying has caused immediate shortages, which may cause those with mobility and access issues difficulty in obtaining the regular supplies they need.”

Compton said social distancing is the most important factor to avoid an outbreak.

“It is important to limit personal contact to 6 feet or greater,” he said. “Experience with the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic demonstrated the effectiveness of social distancing in stopping the spread of a pandemic flu. Limiting close personal contact and avoiding large groups is an effective way to ‘flatten the curve’ of new infections.”

Worldwide, there have been 183,425 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 7,167 deaths and 79,737 recovered, which equates to a death rate of 3.9 percent.

In the U.S., there have been 4,661 cases and 85 deaths, a rate of 1.8 percent.

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