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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 05/05/2020

Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode, you'll hear from our local health officer about the decision to stay at home an extra week and find out how data will play a key role in deciding when businesses reopen. You'll also hear about the effectiveness of Johnson County's efforts to flatten the curve and put us on a road to recovery.

Announcer [00:00:17] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed [00:00:31] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Theresa Freed a Johnson County, resident and an employee of Johnson County Government. Johnson County is preparing to reopen government buildings and businesses are getting ready to reopen as well. So when and how will that happen? In late April, Governor Laura Kelly announced a phased approach known as AD Astra, a Plan to Reopen Kansas, taking into account testing rates, COVID-19 hospitalizations, ability to contract trace and availability of personal protective equipment. This week, businesses around the state started to reopen under phase one. Johnson County intends to follow the governor's phased approach of reopening, but it is delaying the start. So for now, phase one in Johnson County is planned to start on May 11th. Here to talk about that decision is Johnson County Local Health Officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster.

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:01:19] First, you have to think about the different counties that are around Johnson. We have had a lot of improvement, both in the number of cases that we're identifying, the number of hospitalizations, the number of deaths for residents in the county. But we don't live on an island. We are right next door to other counties where there are numerous outbreaks of new cases, hospitalizations and all kinds of workplaces. And this is right next door to our northern border. The way that I like to think about this is if you could imagine three buckets of water that were connected by a hose at the bottom. If you put pressure on one of those buckets of water and the hoses are open at the bottom, then that water will rush through the hose into the other buckets. If you put the same amount of pressure on the top of all of those buckets, the water doesn't move through the tubes. The idea is that if we have an opening date earlier than our neighboring counties and they are experiencing a lot more activity of the virus, that we may see movements of people into the county for shopping that would put our residents at greater risk. The extra week will give us that much more time to work with the neighboring counties and to give them an opportunity to get under control those outbreaks that they're identifying so that we don't see a big second wave immediately coming into the next month in Johnson County.

Theresa Freed [00:03:07] So as businesses do reopen, how can they protect their staff and customers?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:03:11] First, we would recommend that you have a good look at the governors reopening plan and orders which talk about the social distancing that needs to continue going on during this first phase. People should continue to maintain the six foot distance, wear masks when they're in a public place where they can't do that. That would include both employees and people going into use the business, being very careful about hand-washing and touching your face just as you have been. Those businesses that are governed by some kind of professional body or professional association that direct them with respect to their operations will be following those directions. As a customer, you have the right to ask if there is such a direction and and what basis they are. They are doing whatever they're doing in terms of protecting the public from the risk of infection. All of us need to be aware as we go forward into this time that the virus is still there. It's still everywhere in the community. And we need to be cautious and avoid especially getting into situations where there are large crowds in an enclosed space for a prolonged period of time.

Theresa Freed [00:04:29] It is starting to warm up. Are we expecting COVID-19 risk to diminish like we see with the flu season during the summer months?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:04:37] We don't really know what will happen with that regard, but we can say that in other parts of the world that had their summer while we had our winter, they were seeing the virus kick up and they were seeing an increase in the number of cases, hospitalizations. We really don't have any evidence that this virus is that much affected by warmer weather. We do have some limited evidence that there is decreased transmission in outdoor open spaces, so those spaces are probably better to be in. We can continue to encourage you as you can to get outside. Take walks, go out in the open air, but remain under the stay-at-home guidelines in terms of how many people you're with, how close you are to other people, maintain 6 foot distances, washing your hands, wearing masks if you're gonna be close to people outside your household.

Theresa Freed [00:05:32] And also with the warmer weather, we see more people outside to get some fresh air and exercise are masks necessary?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:05:39] Sometimes you'll see people that wear special masks when they're exercising to increase their cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. If you see somebody doing that, there's nothing wrong with that. That's their choice. But for the cause of preventing infection, it probably is not necessary if they're outside exercising on their own. It is true that when you're exercising vigorously, you're breathing more out and your the possibility of spreading droplets could happen. Wearing a mask is mostly protecting other people, not protecting yourself unless you're a health care worker in a special situation wearing an N95 mask. Most of the masks that people wear out in the community are to prevent infection being spread to other people. So that's the main reason for wearing them. And if you're in a situation where you're in a crowd, if you're exercising in and around a crowd of people, then it might be a good idea to wear one.

Theresa Freed [00:06:37] Next up we'll hear from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola with details of the county's testing efforts. All the long we've heard testing is vital to the decision making process when it comes to taking precautions to limit and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Sanmi Areola [00:06:53] It is very important to understand where we are before a decision is made to roll back, and the data tells us that. But that also becomes like the the basic to compare future data too to see the impact of the rollbacks. And so the White House plan is pretty specific. The things that has to be in place, downward trajectory of COVID cases as a percentage of total tests are just the counts. And so the data is essential. But I think it's very important for people to know that if and when we start to roll off things back, our expectations have to be to be reasonable when we roll the shelter-in-place and physical distancing measures that I've been very, very effective, back when we roll those things back, we're going to have more cases. Primary to full containment. That is changing. We're changing that to contact tracing. And this is containment. To do that means that we have to do adequate testing so that when we identify cases, quickly isolate them. We identify their contacts and we put them in quarantine. That's a way to kind of form. If you want, if you will, a wall around those cases before we have extensive community transmission. But a resurgence of spread of COVID-19 is also possible, as with all things, but we're going to have more people in the community, we're going to have movement between our counties. That's why risk is higher. However, if we have the right tools in place, it is possible that we're able to contain this.

Theresa Freed [00:08:36] So will we continue to do testing as the stay-at-home order is lifted?

Dr. Sanmi Areola [00:08:41] Absolutely. Testing is going to be very, very critical way, especially when we start to roll things back. When we start to roll things back, we have to do more testing than we are currently doing. That's very, very important for us to know how things are going. Also very important for us to do more testing so we can quickly identify cases and contain the spread.

Theresa Freed [00:09:04] And how long do we need to continue to do that testing?

Dr. Sanmi Areola [00:09:07] So so this is a virus unlike any that we've ever seen. It's a virus that you if you're within six foot six feet of me. You don't I don't have to cough. I don't have to sneeze. I can pass it on to you by simply talking and breathing. There's a lot about the virus that we don't know. And so making projections into the future until we have a vaccine, there's no question that some form of physical distention and extensive testing will be in place for a long time. We there's a lot we don't even know about to the ability of the virus. After you've been infected in terms of antibodies. There's a lot we don't know about the antibody, whether it's in neutralizing that antibody that provides some measure of immunity. If we have that, that's also an advantage. What we are finding out about the virus, daily we are learning. Obviously one called antigenicity is very low. And so that's a challenge with all of those antibody tests and because they're picking up the adult form of coronaviruses. So we need those kinds of breakthrough to be able to do more sophisticated testing to complement what we already have before having a therapeutic intervention or having a vaccine, testing is going to be very important. Some measure of physical distancing is going to be very, very important.

Theresa Freed [00:10:29] To get much more, including daily data updates on COVID-19 in Johnson County, visit us at jocogov.org/coronavirus.

Announcer [00:10:38] You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County, have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.