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Agencies offer coronavirus advice, warnings

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, as of Tuesday morning, the state has a total of 36 coronavirus cases, with that number increasing by the day. As medical professionals with the ADPH, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and others continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, recommendations and restrictions are being constantly updated to try to limit the spread of the virus.

As of Tuesday, the closest reported case to Franklin was Limestone County, with the majority of confirmed cases in Jefferson County. The first case in Alabama was confirmed March 13.

TESTING AND DIAGNOSIS

According to the CDC, if a person has questions about being tested for COVID-19, they should call their healthcare provider to make arrangements for testing. It is important to call your healthcare provider’s office before going in to let them know you may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep others from getting infected or exposed to COVID-19.

Anyone who does not have a healthcare provider should call 1-888-264-2256.

According to the CDC, the complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild, including some with no reported symptoms, to severe, including illness resulting in death.

As of Tuesday, there have been no deaths in Alabama.

QUARANTINE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Quarantine has become the name of the game, with everything from athletic seasons to religious services being canceled. The ADPH has made the following recommendations as people, businesses and communities consider how to protect themselves and their loved ones from the disease:

  • No mass gatherings of 50 people or more or gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between participants.
  • Senior adults or those with chronic health problems should avoid gatherings, outside of close family, of 10 or more people and should avoid travel by air, train or bus.
  • Retail business, including restaurants, should limit patronage at any one time to 50 percent of the normally-allowable capacity. Restaurants should maintain a six-foot distance between tables.
  • Public buildings should consider whether visitation can be limited. Hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are encouraged to implement visitation policies that protect vulnerable persons. 
  • All persons should consider whether out-of-state travel plans can be delayed or cancelled.  
  • Participants in religious services or events, weddings, funerals and family events should exercise prudence and maintain consistent six-foot distance between participants if possible.  
  • To help prevent the spread, the public is urged to continue practicing social distancing and other precautionary measures, including:
  • Washing hands with soap and water.
  • Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers if hand washing is not possible.
  • Covering mouth and nose with a tissue or coughing/sneezing into one’s elbow.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Staying home when sick.
  • Staying away from people who are sick.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension has also encouraged the public to take steps to prepare for quarantine, whether self-imposed or doctor- or government-mandated:

  • Gather the necessary items to function in the home for a two-week quarantine. There is no need to buy things you will not use later or to stockpile more than you would need for two weeks.
  • If there are young children in the home or people with specific dietary requirements, be sure to have an adequate supply of infant formula and other foods needed.
  • Canned foods, bottled water and shelf-stable milk are good choices to keep on hand.
  • Prepare to have an adequate supply of both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Remember to check on family members and neighbors who might need assistance with preparations.

Senior populations have been found to be among the most vulnerable to the disease, meaning assisted living and nursing home facilities have taken extensive measures in the face of the virus.

In Russellville, Country Cottage is on complete lockdown, with no residents out and no family members permitted to visit. A spokesperson said they are in daily communication with the company leadership as well as other Country Cottage locations as the situation continues to evolve, and employees are doing what they can to encourage residents who are missing their usual visitors.

“We’re just spraying and cleaning and taking precautions,” the Country Cottage spokesperson added, noting how unprecedented such a lockdown is.

Burns Nursing and Rehab is continuing to follow recommendations from the ADPH as well as recommendations and regulations from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. No visitors are being permitted, and anyone entering the facility is subject to stricter scrutiny during their time at Burns.

“We are limiting people coming in and out of our facility,” explained admissions coordinator Lindley Hollander. “We are doing a screening tool that was recommended by CMS.”

Everyone who enters Burns, including employees as well as EMS personnel and others, must undergo a temperature check and answer a series of questions about their travel in the past 14 days, their contact with anyone who might be experiencing symptoms and any symptoms they are experiencing. Hand washing is also required upon entry.

“We are continuing to do whatever is necessary to protect our residents,” Hollander said.

Staff members with symptoms are sent home, and Burns is encouraging employees to practice self isolation and social distancing. “We need staff here to take care of our residents, and we are doing everything we can to keep them safe,” Hollander added.

A special COVID-19 task force has been formed at Burns to monitor and enforce recommendations and regulations, a small group of Burns employees that includes the infection preventionist and senior leadership.

Hollander said Burns has also taken all measures possible to keep residents’ families informed and updated and has even taken steps like arranging FaceTime “visits” to keep residents’ morale up.

Terrace Manor has also temporarily implemented a no visitor policy. “This is an effort to prevent infection in our building and to protect our vulnerable residents,” explains a corporate memo. “Currently we have no suspected nor confirmed incidence of Coronavirus.”

“This policy is 100 percent aimed at preventing coronavirus infections in our buildings,” said Brien Hubbard, AHM COO. “We are simply being proactive and trying to protect our residents.”

BACK TO BASICS

Because hand washing has proven to be vital to preventing the spread of disease, agencies have made it a point to encourage frequent hand washing, recommending at least 20 seconds for maximum effectiveness. The Extension recommends the following:

  • Wet hands with clean, running warm water and apply soap.
  • Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice for an easy way to time.
  • Rinse hands well under clean, running warm water.
  • Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them using a warm or room temperature blow dryer.

For more information , the CDC offers extensive resources, recommendations, advice and FAQs at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. The ADPH offers more information and resources at http://alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/2019-coronavirus.html.

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