Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode hear from Johnson County Public Health officials. They will address developments in the understanding of COVID-19, including how long the virus lives on surfaces and what viral loading is and why it matters to your health. Also, find out how those in high risk groups and others should protect themselves from getting sick.
Announcer [00:00:17] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, 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 [00:00:30] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County Government. It's now been just under three months since Johnson County announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19. So much has happened since that time and developments continue every day. Today, we're going to talk to two of our doctors: Johnson County Local Health Officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster and Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola. First, we'll look at what the current recommendations are for reopening the county, and then we'll take a close look at our increasing understanding of the virus. Let's start with Dr. LeMaster. You know, the county is now open, but we are strongly encouraging residents and businesses to take some precautions. Can you talk about that?
Dr, Joseph LeMaster [00:01:14] There is a strong expectation on the part of the county that businesses and other groups that could host large mass gatherings, meaning people together, more than 45, should not do that until at least June the 11th. There are other recommendations which have been in place the entire time. All other businesses are now open. But we continue to recommend that everyone wear masks when they're in any kind of indoor space with other people for any prolonged period of time that people maintain six foot of distance from people, other people that they don't reside with, that they don't live with, that you continue to wash your hands frequently throughout the day or before eating or touching your face. That means soap and water for at least 20 seconds vigorously, and that you continue to be aware of all the other recommendations on the Web site.
Theresa Freed [00:02:16] And what should people know about the potential for more positive cases?
Dr, Joseph LeMaster [00:02:19] We could see another summer spike in cases and hospitalizations. We want to really encourage you to be responsible. We know you are all responsible people. You have got this this outbreak down. We've been able to flatten the curve by all of us working together. Let's not undo the hard work that we've done these last couple of months by taking advantage of the opportunity to get together in large groups which are going to be unhealthy and which will promote transmission of the virus.
Theresa Freed [00:02:57] Groups of 45 or less is the new recommendation. Can you talk about what that looks like?
Dr, Joseph LeMaster [00:03:02] What the groups of 45 is really indicating is that people who have businesses who could have a group of up to 45 there should limit their business from having any more than that people. That number of people in the building in an inside space. Could also include churches or other types of of mass of places that have large groups of people together. Again, as you know, these are strong recommendations. So what really we want to emphasize is that we're not yet ready. The state ad Astra plan would have kept us in Phase 2 until June the 8th. We're not yet ready to have people come together who do not reside together, who don't live together in groups and start mixing together socially, even though there is this group of up to 45 recommendation and expectation that's out there on the Web site. It is dangerous for you to get together with other people outside your household for extended periods of time socializing. And we strongly recommend that you don't do it. Keep within your family groupings for now, maintain social distance from people outside those family groupings as much as possible, unless you're wearing a mask and they are, too. Even in that situation, we would still recommend the six foot distance issue. Remember that the highest risk situation is where there's a large group of people in an indoor space that's poorly ventilated and those people are not wearing masks. Add masks to that whole situation. The risk goes down. Take that group outside. The risk goes down. Reduce the number of people in the group, the risk goes down. Stay at home altogether with your family. The risk goes down. There's a straight relationship between the size of the group, the proximity of people, and whether they're wearing masks that we want to people to think about as they make decisions about different kinds of activities that they will take part in.
Theresa Freed [00:05:22] And now, Dr. Areola, we've been closely following the data to track spread. What are we seeing?
Dr, Sanmi Areola [00:05:28] We we are still largely trending well. We have made it clear that once we remove our shelter in place order and we have increased activities and we open things up, that we're going to see some spikes. So, yes, we've seen some spikes. But in terms of the trend and the average, we're still doing pretty well. We have broadened testing and we're quickly identifying people that are infected and quickly doing isolation and contact tracing as a way of preventing widespread transmission in the county.
Theresa Freed [00:06:12] And Dr. LeMaster, already addressed how we can continue to be cautious. But can you also touch on that?
Dr, Sanmi Areola [00:06:17] The primary message to residents remain to be very cautious. The virus is here. We're still seeing infections in Long-Term Care Facilities and outside. We're seeing infections in our businesses. And so the virus is here. You need to continue to be careful to take all of the steps that we have talked about. You need to wear a mask as much as you can. If you are sick, you need to stay home. That's not just protecting yourself, but that's protecting all that's that you may come in contact with. You need to wash your hands as much as you can and avoid crowds. If you don't have to go out, don't. If you're out, keep six feet distance from people. But again, the biggest and the more likely scenario for you to for your risk to be high is when you are close to people. And you are in a crowded place, so avoid places like that.
Theresa Freed [00:07:22] Something else we're closely tracking as clusters. I know the state is seeing those in correctional facilities, meat packing plants and other industries. Long-Term Care an obvious location for those. What's happening in Johnson County? And what are we doing to stop those?
Dr, Sanmi Areola [00:07:36] We have been investigating over the past few weeks some outbreaks in clusters in our Long-Term Care Facilities. Those are skilled nursing facilities, memory care and independent living. And quite a lot of them have taken the appropriate steps. When we find that they test broadly, they form a wall around them, around those that are positive, and minimize the spread of the virus outside. Once we start to open things up, we have seen clusters in different businesses. We have worked with a lot of these businesses also to contain the spread. But like we have always said, we have neighboring counties. We have people that work here and live in neighboring counties. And so as we increase interactions, we expect to see more of this cluster. So right now, we're looking at about two or three companies that we're working with to contain those clusters. There's nothing that is absolutely alarming from those. Where we see that, we work with them to isolate the positives and to quarantine close, close contacts. But as we open things up and interactions increase, we expect to see more of those. The primary goal is still for you as an individual to protect yourself by following the steps that have been set.
Theresa Freed [00:09:04] People are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and getting out and about more. But not everyone should do that. So how should those in high risk groups respond to reopening?
Dr, Sanmi Areola [00:09:13] If you are high risk and by high risk, it could be that you are 60 years or older. It could be that you have an underlying condition, say cardiovascular disease. Say you have taken medications that could reduce your immune response. You have diabetes or any of those conditions that we've talked about. You need to take the extra precautions. Our local numbers here show what we call comorbid conditions where a lot of these conditions: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity are almost always associated with some of the more serious consequences of infection. So if you have any of those conditions, you need to take care of yourself. You need to take an extra precaution. If you don't have to go out, then don't. Limit the number of people that you are exposed to. Definitely avoid large gatherings. The good thing is in the past few months, we've kind of really increased our tolerance to ordering out and staying six feet away from people and and not shaking hands. All of those things that we've been doing, you need to continue to do them. I do want to emphasize that the virus is still here. The risk is high, actually higher now than it was a few weeks ago because we have opened things up. So take care of yourself and wear a mask strongly encouraged as much as you can and stay away from people that could potentially be sick. But also keep in mind that there are people that would spread this virus without showing symptoms. So your best tool is stay home unless you absolutely have to go.
Theresa Freed [00:11:05] We're starting to hear about a concept called viral load. What is that and what's the significance?
Dr, Sanmi Areola [00:11:10] Even for viruses and other biological agents, the fundamental toxicology concept of 'the dose makes the poison' still holds. So for many, many of these things, it's not just exposure, it's exposure to a level that is high enough in this case to probably overwhelm the response mounted by our immune system. So every time that we are exposed to things like this, the body will release antibodies to fight. And so if you have exposed to a sudden level that probably overwhelms your immune system system, you are more likely to see a response as probably more significant than people that are exposed to a much lower level. So which, again, underscores the importance of wearing masks and staying away from people. So you put a you could be exposed to some. But if you wear a mask, you I mean, if you stand with somebody that's wearing a mask, the mask represents a barrier that will probably stop some of the droplets from coming out. And we're talking about really, really tiny droplets that are able to travel deeper into our lungs, which is probably one of the ways in which this virus causes harm, pneumonia and other things. But by protecting your respiratory system, by wearing a mask, you are reducing the amount that you are potentially exposed to by staying six feet away from people. You are reducing the amount that you can potentially be exposed to by not staying too close for a period of longer than 10 minutes. You are reducing the amount that you have potentially been exposed to. So keep in mind that all of the steps are important to minimize the level that you're exposed to, protecting you from any exposure at all. But even when you are close to people with the infection. Those are very helpful things in reducing the amount of exposure.
Theresa Freed [00:13:15] And last question. We're hearing that the virus doesn't live on surfaces as long as initially thought. Is that true?
Dr, Sanmi Areola [00:13:21] The virus that causes COVID-19, like most other viruses. And quite honestly, other germs, could survive in multiple on multiple surfaces. However, the biggest risk, it's still a respiratory disease. Biggest route of exposure is still by breathing them in. Yes, it is in theory, actually in practice, possible that if you you can come in contact with them by touching probably more doorknobs or any of those places that we tend to touch often. And if we don't wash our hands, we put our hands into the so-called T zone, which is eyes, nose and mouth. That could be a potential source of infection. But the data that's becoming available is showing that by far more significant route of exposure this is to breathe it in. That's why a mask would offer some level of protection. And for those surfaces, again, handwashing is our friend when we do that. But by protecting respiratory outlets, breathing things in and wearing masks, we are going to significantly reduce our risk of exposure to this virus.
Theresa Freed [00:14:45] Get much more on COVID-19, including data on jocogov.org/coronavirus.
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