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Ask the WGH medical team

Joe Akif

The Times Observer asked the Warren General Hospital medical team to help us get information out to our readers through the COVID-19 FAQ-3. Twice a week, or more, we will pose our questions, and your questions, to the experts.

If you would like the Times Observer to submit a question to the WGH medical team, email jsitler@timesobserver.com and we will forward those questions.

Three questions about the coronavirus outbreak

Answers provided by medical team at Warren General Hospital: Joe Akif, Chief Nursing Officer; Michele Welker, RN, Infection Control Nurse; Beth Anderson, RN, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator; Keith Price, MD,Medical Director.

1. How many coronavirus tests has WGH performed?

Dr. Keith Price

As of noon on April 9, 156 tests have been done. We are still awaiting results on some of them.

2. Are there currently more cases in Warren County than the CDC is reporting, putting community members at risk?

With only one case reported, people think the virus is not in our area and they are not following precautionary measures to prevent spreading of the virus.

There are a number of infections, like COVID, tuberculosis, measles, and Lyme disease that, by law, MUST be reported to the Department of Health by the testing labs. They, in turn, report to the CDC. At this time, only one case has been reported for a Warren County resident.

Could there be infections that we don’t know about? Absolutely! First of all, due to the national shortage of testing supplies, only people with significant symptoms should be tested for the coronavirus. Since there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, mild cases are usually not tested, since the treatment suggestions would not change (isolation, masking for necessary trips out of the home, etc.).

Bethany Anderson

The recommendation for everyone to wear a mask when in public (that is, within six feet or so of other people) is for two main reasons:

To help prevent spread from the 25% of infected people who never get symptoms, so they would never know that they are infectious, and;

In folks who do get fevers, coughs, or other manifestations, they may become infected and are contagious several days before they get symptoms.

Remember: “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.”

3. When will life become more normal again?

Michele Welker

There are, of course, very different opinions on the future course of this. We’ll mention two public health expert opinions here.

The first, from the University of Pennsylvania, believes the “lockdown” can be eased sometime in June.

The second expert, from Johns Hopkins Center in epidemiology, foresees four phases of recovery. We are currently in Phase 1, in which the numbers becoming infected are increasing.

When new cases in a particular area have dropped for 14 days and hospitals in that area are able to cope with the surge of COVID patients, then Phase 2 could begin. Schools could be allowed to reopen and other types of “societal functions” (like work!) can resume, though the elderly and people with health problems will still need to limit their interactions with others.

The time needed to move into Phase 2 will continue to depend on how aggressively we attend to our current measures – social distancing, hand washing, disinfecting, and now masking in public. Moving into Phase 3, the lifting of all restrictions, is envisioned only after effective medicines and/or vaccines are available to fight the virus. Hopefully medications will be in use by summer, but this remains an unknown.

Phase 4 is seen as a time to plan and build supports to fight the next “biological threat.”

Our summary of all this: We will get through this, but it will take time. We can perhaps shorten that time significantly if we “keep up the good fight” with those important measures to slow the viral spread mentioned above.

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