Marshall Co. COVID-19 Task Force Update – 3/17/2020

As of Tuesday at noon, Marshall County still has no confirmed positive cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19 present in our community. While no positive cases have been identified at this time, the COVID-19 community task force is jointly taking action towards prevention, and planning and preparing for inevitably treating this aggressive infectious disease.

Patient screening and testing is available at Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH), Marysville, through the primary care clinics and emergency department. People who have identified possible symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, and travel to a known hot-spot or direct exposure to a patient with confirmed COVID-19) are asked to call the clinics or the emergency room, prior to coming in. After notifying staff of possible symptoms, they will be screened over the phone and determined if they need to be seen in person for testing. Most patients, even if they test positive for COVID-19, will be able to recover in isolation at home. However, severe cases with additional complications will need to be treated further.

Testing at this time is limited statewide to patients who meet all of the screening criteria. If you suspect you may be positive, have traveled extensively outside of the region, or are concerned about possible exposure, you are asked to self-quarantine and monitor at this time.

“Testing right now is under the direction of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE),” said Ermel Heuer, director of infection prevention at CMH. “Starting this week, private labs will supposedly also be allowed to process testing, and our doctors may use that avenue in the future after we receive additional testing supplies.”

“We have sent two tests to the state for testing. One was tested for COVID-19 and is still pending results, the other was determined not to meet the criteria necessary for testing,” Heuer said.

Any results that are tested by the state will be given first to public health officials at the Marshall County Health Department, then communicated to the patient, hospital and community.

While no positive cases have been identified, this is a highly contagious disease with no available treatment, said Heuer. Marshall County communities are asking individuals, businesses and organizations to take all available precautions. While healthy people may experience mild symptoms or even be asymptomatic, people who are immunocompromised, have pre-existing health conditions, or are older with more fragile health will be most severely impacted. Worldwide, it has been proven if the infection is not contained, there will be shortages of PPE (personal protection equipment) for healthcare workers, hospital beds or intensive care unit space, ventilators and treatments available for those effected.

“The best possible thing we can do as a community is to make every effort to slow the spread of disease to allow our healthcare systems to be able to handle this epidemic,” said Sue Rhodes, County Public Health Nurse and Marshall County Health Department director.

As part of the precautions to prevent community spread of COVID-19, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly made an executive order on Monday, March 16, 2020, banning immediately any “gatherings of 50 or more people in Kansas churches, restaurants, concerts, recreational facilities and other venues for eight weeks to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Locally, Marshall County public health is following direction from KDHE and asking members of the community to:

  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Practice social distancing – keeping a distance of 6 feet between persons, and limit unnecessary contact with others outside of home or work
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily
  • Call your healthcare provider if you feel you need to be seen

“This is a community effort towards keeping ourselves healthy, and you ARE our community. We are only as healthy as our weakest link,” said Heuer. “One, don’t let that be you, and two, help us protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Community coordination and planning for epidemic preparedness includes cooperation from many agencies, including public health, healthcare, schools, law enforcement, emergency management, and local government. Many policies and procedures have been put in place by the various affected agencies. Training is being conducted for all involved.

“We appreciate how seriously most of our area is taking precautions,” said Rhodes.

For more information on coronavirus, Rhodes recommends following KDHE and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) online COVID-19 resource centers. Information is also available on a dedicated page on the CMH website, the Health Department’s website, and both of their Facebook pages. People with concerns can call the KDHE COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-534-3463. This hotline is staffed Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., and intended to answer any questions regarding coronavirus.