Key Takeaways from Dr. Millard's Livestream
March 25, 2020
On March 21, the Valley County Health Officer Dr. Anne Millard held a Facebook livestream to answer questions and inform the public about the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected much of the world and led to an order to shut down dine in bars, restaurants, brew pubs and so on last week. Below are the key takeaways from that livestream. To view the video in full visit the Frances Mahon Deaconess Facebook page.
If you have traveled recently, stay home. Dr. Millard emphasized the need for people who have traveled to places outside Valley County, where the disease is endemic, to stay home for 14 days after returning. That will slow the spread of the virus as it moves from location to location. Some entities have made the practice mandatory for employees, including city and county government.
If you think you need to be tested, call the clinic. If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19 and think you need to be tested, Dr. Millard suggested calling the clinic and setting up an appointment. As of March 23, dozens have been tested and all the tests have come back negative in Valley County. One individual tested positive for the flu, which shares symptoms with COVID-19. The FMDH clinic’s number is 228-3400.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are: Low-grade fever (99-101 degrees); unproductive or a dry, hacking cough; difficulty breathing; and fatigue. Most cases are mild and can even be asymptomatic. Some cases can be severe and lead to hospitalization and even death. It most directly affects those with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients, underlying respiratory conditions, and the elderly over 60. Dr. Millard stated, “If you are over 60, you definitely want to stay home.”
Stopping the spread is critical. Dr. Millard highlighted the county’s limited ability to deal with an influx of patients in respiratory duress. Currently, they have only four ventilators, among a number of other means to keep patient’s oxygen levels up if they cannot do so on their own—methods like CPAP, BIPAP and manually forced air (bagging by hand). It will also be difficult to transport severe cases to other hospitals if the need arises. For that reason it is critical to take measures to limit the number of cases in Valley County to keep the “curve” below the hospital’s ability to treat patients.
Flatten the curve. The same thing as stopping the spread, the curve is the number of cases in an area as represented on an exponential curve. In other words as cases appear they will continue to climb exponentially until they reach the peak number of cases and then they will begin to decrease exponentially. The effort to flatten the curve is to limit the peak number of cases requiring medical attention to a number below the capacity of medical services. “We want to stay off the curve as much as possible,” stated Millard.
This will last until summer, at least. Millard stated that she is hopeful that the restrictions and pandemic will end in June or July. That guess is based on the possibility that the warming weather may have an effect on the virus’ spread and severity. She clarified that until the curve reaches its peak and begins to recede, the restrictions will likely remain in place. “Eventually the curve will start going back down and, when that happens, restrictions will be lifted,” said Millard.
Valley County is testing. Millard stated that the county had tested over 45 people as of March 21. Of all of those tested all have come back negative. Tests must be taken at the clinic and then shipped to the state-run labs for preliminary testing and then forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control for verification. Test results have been taking three to five days to return. She did say that, “All of us healthcare workers are frustrated by” the fact that the tests are centralized at the state level.
A total shut down is not on the radar. In response to a question regarding a total shutdown of the county and ingress and egress into Glasgow, Millard said that the efforts are in place in New York and California but that she hopes it will not come to that in Valley County. “I don’t want Valley County to get to that point,” said Millard. “I think it is better if everybody voluntarily does things.”