Mar 13, 2020 /
COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, continues to receive substantial media attention as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week elevated the status of the illness to a pandemic and President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries to the United States beginning March 13 at midnight.
“The CDC has upgraded COVID-19 to a pandemic status. This decision was not necessarily due to the seriousness of the illness itself, but rather because of how quickly it has spread,” said Tom Nordwick, CEO of Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
Locally, Uvalde Memorial Hospital is staying up to date on Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) protocol and recommendations, as DSHS works closely with the CDC to monitor the outbreak.
There have been no reported or confirmed cases locally, but fear and panic seem to be present.
“The media has given significant attention to COVID-19, a new strain of Coronavirus, and that attention has created a substantial amount of fear,” Nordwick said.
What Is COVID-19
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that typically cause mild colds. These viruses are seen year-round, although like other cold viruses, they are more prevalent in the winter. COVID-19 is a new strain of Coronavirus. Individuals’ immune systems have never seen this virus before and it is likely to be widespread, but just like other Coronaviruses most people will have mild illnesses.
“Like other Coronaviruses, COVID-19 will cause cold and cough symptoms, sometimes a sore throat, and probably a mild fever,” stated David ‘Cliff’ White, M.D., chief medical officer at Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
People are exposed to so many other viruses in the same family on a regular basis that some cross-immunity to this new strain does exist. A healthy immune system will recognize the virus and respond quickly. This is likely why the death rate is so low and there have been no pediatric deaths reported. Like other viruses, there is greater concern for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
“Like other viruses, there is no treatment besides treating the symptoms - Tylenol and Motrin, cough drops, and/or humidifiers (cool-mist for children) are all good options,” Dr. White added.
Symptoms of COVID-19
The predominant symptoms of COVID-19 have been reported to be fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Although individuals are encouraged to stay home for mild cold and cough symptoms, contact your medical provider or seek medical care for the following:
Basic hygiene steps are extremely effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
The spread in other countries has been multiplied largely through emergency rooms and medical offices where infected people visit. Individuals should avoid going to those places unless there is a medical emergency or another need to see their physician.
“Taking simple universal precautions, like good hand washing, will significantly decrease the spread of this illness,” advised Jared Reading, M.D., board president of Uvalde Medical and Surgical Associates and chief radiologist at Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
“Most importantly, don’t panic. A great example of how universal precautions can keep it at bay: a hospital in Hong Kong treated over 200 cases of COVID-19 and not a single healthcare worker at the facility was infected,” Dr. Reading added
Testing for COVID-19
Hospitals throughout the state have been equipped with a limited number of testing kits and individuals must meet multiple requirements set by Texas Health and Human Services (THHS) to qualify for COVID-19 testing. A person will only be tested if they:
- Show signs of a fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness and has had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
- Show signs of a fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, and has a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset or has risk factors (like diabetes, heart disease, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease or chronic kidney disease that put them at a higher risk of poor outcomes)
- Show signs of a fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness requiring hospitalization and no source of exposure has been identified
Testing for COVID-19 will be directed by an individual’s physician. Test results may take up to 96 hours to be returned from the CDC. In most cases the person will be asked to go home and quarantine themselves until results are received.
If an individual or their physician suspect COVID-19 or another similar respiratory illness, the person should stay home from work and keep children home from school. Generally, it is safe to return to work or school when no fever is present for 24 hours, there is no more than occasional coughing, and the person is well enough to participate in regular activities.
Local Response to COVID-19
Locally, representatives from more than 15 different agencies met on Thursday, March 12, under the direction of City of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and Uvalde County Judge, The Honorable William Mitchell, to discuss the current status of COVID-19, share updates affecting each agency, and to assess a city and county-wide plan for response.
Agencies with representatives who shared updates included City of Uvalde, Uvalde County, Uvalde Memorial Hospital, Uvalde County Office of Emergency Management, Uvalde County Sherriff’s Office, City of Uvalde Police Department, US Border Patrol, Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC), Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD), Community Health Development, Inc. (CHDI), and Amistad Nursing and Rehabilitation.
The discussion began with Mayor Don McLaughlin and Judge Mitchell sharing their concerns over the spread of the virus, their strong desire to ensure Uvalde and the surrounding area are prepared, and the importance for the general public to stay calm and stay informed. Hospital CEO Tom Nordwick shared CDC information including the most current status of the illness, the qualifications for an individual to be tested for COVID-19, and the testing process.
Uvalde County Public Health Nurse Terri Black, RN advised the group to avoid mass gatherings, encourage individuals to quarantine themselves if any symptoms of a respiratory illness are present, and to call a physician before reporting to an emergency room or physician office. Black also shared with the group that the illness itself typically lasts 14 days and symptoms become most predominate around day 5.
UCISD superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell shared that school will resume, as previously scheduled, on Tuesday, March 17 for students, with staff returning on Monday, March 16. With no local cases reported the Texas Education Agency has indicated there is no reason, at present, for schools to close. UCISD has ample cleaning supplies and will be increasing the frequency of sanitizing school buses and school furniture. The district is taking extra precautions for extra-curricular UIL activities and students and parents will be kept informed as any potential cancelations for those activities may arise.
SWTJC president Dr. Hector Gonzales announced that the campus’s spring break would be extended an additional week and beginning March 23 most classes will transition to online. Dual credit classes will be suspended only on March 16 and will resume Tuesday, March 17. Sul Ross State University (SRSU) was not in attendance but later released a statement that they will also be extending their spring break an additional week. Beginning March 23 through April 12, SRSU courses will be conducted remotely and any exceptions will be communicated to students directly by the instructor.
Uvalde County Sherriff Charles Mendeke, Judge Camille DuBose, and City Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez also shared brief updates.
Other agencies in attendance were Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas State Game Wardens, Uvalde EMS, Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department, Concan Volunteer Fire Department, Utopia Volunteer Fire Department, and Knippa Independent School District.
The group will follow up with regularly scheduled meetings to continue monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak closely.
UMH will be implementing temporary changes effective Tuesday, March 17 at 8:00 AM.
We greatly appreciate your patience as information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and we continuously monitor CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services guidelines. Your safety is our priority!
To view temporary changes at UMH, click HERE
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