COVID-19 FAQ: How to Keep Schools Open

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Many months have passed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. However, there are still unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and what its effect will be moving forward. Tri-County Health Care, Wadena-Deer Creek Schools and Sourcewell hosted a community town hall to answer questions from the public. Topics addressed included how influenza differs from COVID-19 and how to keep schools open this year.

Tri-County Health Care COVID-19 Coronavirus Schools Reopening Germs Hand Hygiene Masks

What are the differences between COVID-19 and influenza?

Ben Hess, M.D.: The main symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza are similar. Nobody can look at a patient and tell if they have one or the other. That is why we must do testing to sort through it and find an answer. We have quite a few treatments that are effective for the flu.

The main difference is that COVID-19 is more dangerous than the flu. If you look at the statistics, the flu kills around 30,000 Americans every year. We have already lost 180,000 to COVID-19.

How can people prepare for the flu season? Will this flu season be different this year?

Dr. Hess: Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread through droplets. That means the measures people are taking to protect themselves from COVID-19 will be effective at limiting the spread of the flu. These mitigation efforts include social distancing, wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene.

Another way to prepare is to get the annual flu shot. It will be important because if a patient is showing symptoms and has had the flu vaccination, it will be easier for the provider to determine the illness. If a patient presents with a fever, muscle aches, runny nose and sore throat and have had a flu shot, the suspicion that it’s COVID-19 is much higher.

In a typical year, I recommend getting the flu shot in October or November for this region. However, with COVID-19 active in the community, it’s more important to get it sooner.

What will school look like this year?

Wadena-Deer Creek School District Superintendent Lee Westrum: We plan to keep the schools open and students in the classroom, but we know we will likely have to shift between the three learning formats described below, depending on the COVID-19 data in our community. We’re also offering distance learning as an option for any family who wishes to choose a more consistent schedule as part of a full-time, at-home learning model.

When students are in school, we will follow the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines to mitigate risks associated with the spread of COVID-19. Our safety protocols include:

  • Physical distancing of individuals in classrooms and common areas, and visual reminders for physical distancing
  • Face coverings for all staff and students in our buildings
  • Handwashing with soap and/or hand sanitizer in each classroom
  • Limited sharing of supplies.
  • Increased daily and weekly enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
  • Increased circulation of outside air into buildings due to our advanced HVAC system

What happens to the learning model if there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in the area?

Lee Westrum: The three learning models in our safe learning plan include in-person learning, hybrid learning and distance learning. These three learning formats may shift depending on COVID-19 data in our community. The state of Minnesota has put together a system to help guide schools about what learning model to use. This system is based on the number of positive COVID-19 tests per 10,000 people in the county over a two-week period. Our district plans to discuss shifting models at these positive case levels:

  • 10 positive cases per 10,000: Students in grades 7-12 would shift to hybrid learning. Elementary students would remain in school.
  • 20 positive cases per 10,000: All students shift to hybrid learning.
  • 30 positive cases per 10,000: Students in grades 7-12 shift to distance learning. Elementary remains with hybrid learning.
  • 50 positive cases: All students shift to distance learning.

How can the community help keep our schools open with in-person learning this year?

Lee Westrum: The main factor in keeping our students in school is by keeping our community COVID-19 infection rates low. We all agree we want our kids in school. It’s important for our parents and community members to be partners with the school on this. That means committing to mitigation efforts at home and in the community. By making this commitment, it will allow us to keep our infection rates low and help us achieve our goal of providing an excellent education while maintaining a safe environment for everyone.

Is it still important to flatten the curve?

Joel Beiswenger, President and CEO: The original concept of flattening the curve was to make sure health care systems didn’t get overrun with the virus. The efforts allowed time for training on how best to care for patients and to acquire personal protective equipment. Now, it’s important to flatten the curve to manage community spread and allow our schools to maintain in-person learning. It’s the same concept with a different perspective on it.

Dr. Hess: When you’re dealing with a virus like this, it has the potential for exponential growth. It only takes a few cases to turn into hundreds or thousands. We’re always flattening the curve, but now we’re focused on doing it to avoid a large-scale shutdown. It’s how we keep our schools and businesses open this year.

Tri-County Health Care COVID-19 Coronavirus Hand Hygiene Schools Reopening Social Distancing Face Masks

 


COVID-19: Do your part to slow the spread

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Help Slow the Spread of the COVID-19

The World Health Organization has officially declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Public health officials have urged people who are sick to follow steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their home and community.

Restrict travel

People with suspected symptoms, which can include fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat, should restrict activities outside of the woman with her hand resisting and preventing coronavirus, a virus that causes severe peneumonia leading to death.home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school or public areas and avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing and taxis. REMEMBER: IF YOU ARE DISPLAYING SYMPTOMS PLEASE CALL AHEAD BEFORE VISITING ANY MEDICAL FACILITY.

If you must leave the house, avoid close contact with other people. Keep at a distance of about 6 feet, if possible.

Designate a specific room in the house

People with symptoms should practice isolation from family and animals in the household to limit the risk of spreading the disease. This means having a designated room away from family members and to use a separate bathroom, if available.

Wear a face mask 

If you must leave the house, a face mask can limit the spread of the disease to other people sharing a room or vehicle. Health care facilities will require a mask upon entry of the building. The mask is required to stay on during the entire visit, or you will be asked to leave. This is for the safety of the patients, medical care providers and community.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Always remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Alternatively, you may clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95 percent alcohol covering all surfaces of your hands until dry. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

Do not share personal household items

Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After use of these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

Practice good hand hygieneMan washing hands in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Now is an especially good time to remind people to clean your hands often. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Disinfect high touch surfaces daily

Surfaces like counters, tabletops, doorknobs, toilets, phones, keyboards and tablets are all high traffic areas in use every day. It is important to clean each surface daily, especially any that may have blood, stool, or bodily fluids on them. Use a cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions.

Monitor your symptoms

Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms worsen. Call your health care provider before seeking care, and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. Wear a face mask at all times to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed.

Follow instructions provided by local health departments.

Discontinuing home isolation

It is difficult to say when it is safe to discontinue home isolation, and this decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. Consult with your health care provider and state and local health departments before ending home isolation.

eClinic

Tri-County Health Care encourages people with symptoms to contact our eClinic for 24/7 online appointments with trusted providers. In addition to providing free COVID-19 Screening, the eClinic helps patients skip the trip and allows providers to recommend treatment and prescribe medication online.

SOURCE: www.cdc.gov


Gross! Hand hygiene and other germy facts

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Your hands are gross. It’s a fact of life. You touch hundreds of surfaces a day, all of which contain their own little worlds of nasty germs. But you might not realize just how gross your hands really are.

Take a look:

  • Germs can survive for up to three hours on your hands.
  • There are between 2 to 10 million bacteria on your fingertips and elbows.close up of 3d microscopic blue bacteria
  • The number of germs on your fingertips doubles after you use the toilet.
  • When you don’t wash your hands, you transfer germs to the food and drinks you eat.
  • Your hands spread 1,000 times more germs when they are damp than when they are dry.

 

Why are germs so bad?

A germ is a tiny organism that can cause diseases and illnesses. Germs can get on your hands after you use the toilet, change a diaper, handle raw meats, or touch any object that has germs on it. When germs are not washed from your hands, they can be passed from person to person. By killing these germs, we lower the likelihood that someone will get sick.

This is important for a number of reasons. For one, nobody wants to be sick, and some of those illnesses could become quite serious. Secondly, those who get sick could be affected financially.

Another reason is that the more people who get sick, the more antibiotics are prescribed, often unnecessarily, according to Cheryl Houselog, infection preventionist at Tri-County Health Care. The more antibiotics you take, the more bacteria builds a resistance to those antibiotics, meaning they will not work as well to fight off that infection. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the U.S.

Other “fun” germ facts:

  • One germ can multiply into more than 8 million germs in one day.
  • Nearly 80 percent of illness-causing germs are spread by your hands.
  • Your remote control is a top carrier of bacteria.
  • There are more germs on your phone, keyboard and cutting board than on a toilet seat.
  • One in five people don’t wash their hands, and of those that do, only 30 percent use soap.
  • When you flush the toilet, germs can spray up to 6 feet.Hygiene. Cleaning Hands. Washing hands.
  • Purses and handbags have up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch, and 30 percent of them contain fecal (poop) bacteria.

 

Fighting those germs

Now that you’ve been effectively grossed out by the facts above, you’ll need to know how to kill some of those germs that live on your hands to keep you and others safe from illness.

Other than getting vaccinated, the number-one thing you can do is wash your hands, Cheryl said. Washing your hands is one of the best defenses you have against infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it this way: When you wash your hands, you can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections such as a cold or flu.

So what’s the best way to clean your hands? Simply use soap and water! The CDC has this down to a science:

  • Get your hands wet, turn off the water, and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to lather up the soap. Clean every surface from between your fingers and under your nails to your palms and back of your hands.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you need a way to time it, sing or hum “Happy Birthday” twice through.
  • Turn the water back on and rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel and use the towel to turn off the water.

However, if you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (as long as your hands are not visibly soiled or dirty).

In fact, primary care providers have begun using alcohol-based sanitizers. That’s the foam spray you see them use as they enter your exam room. The CDC cites many studies that show these hand sanitizers work incredibly well in clinical settings.

For more information about hand washing from the CDC, go here.

 

Cover your coughlittle boy, big sneeze.

Your hands aren’t the only way that germs are spread. Germs of respiratory illnesses, such as the cold or flu, can be spread through coughing or sneezing into the air or on your hands.

Did you know that when you sneeze, you shoot droplets with up to 100,000 bacteria and viruses into the air at 100 mph? And those droplets can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes!

That’s why it’s important to practice proper cough etiquette. Try to sneeze or cough into a tissue, a sleeve or your elbow if possible, and turn away from other people while doing so. Finally, wash your hands once you’re done.

 

Flu season in Minnesota begins ramping up near the end of December and beginning of January, so it’s a good time for everyone to start doing their part to prevent the spread of infection by washing their hands, practicing cough etiquette, and getting vaccinated.

 

Sources: CDC, Unicef, Med One Group