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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 06/24/2020

Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode, hear from Johnson County, public health officials. We'll talk about the current COVID-19 case trends in the county. Find out when you should wear a mask both indoors and outdoors and what's in store for the upcoming school year.

Announcer [00:00:14] 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 [00:00:27] 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. The county is fully reopened, but along with that, we're seeing more COVID-19 cases here at home and around the state. So why is that? How do we prevent the spread of the disease? We have with us Johnson County local health officer, Dr. Joseph LeMaster. So what's the current situation in Johnson County in the last few days?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:00:51] We have seen an increase in the number of cases in Johnson County and around the state higher than at any other time during the pandemic. People are moving around. More people are out and about more. This is not all predominantly happening in nursing homes and long term care facilities. This is happening out in the community. We want to emphasize the extreme importance of using and wearing masks. Obviously, when you're eating in a restaurant, you can't be wearing a mask when you're putting the food in your mouth. But you could be wearing it when you're before and after that or when you're in a waiting area or when you're at the mall. What we want to do is recommend as strongly as we possibly can at this point that everyone be wearing a mask anytime they're in any indoor space at all. It's not necessary to wear, for instance, an N95 mask. Your whole face should be covered by the face covering or mask and should. And this is especially important, as we've said many times, when you're in a space where you can't be more than where you can't get more than six feet away from other people. But we really want to strongly emphasize the use of masks. We know that there is a certain proportion of us in the community who have the infection with COVID and don't know it, don't have symptoms and we're spreading it to other people. The mask, if we all wear masks, it decreases the spread of the virus from me to you or from you to me. People may say, well, I don't think I need to wear a mask. I'm not worried about getting the infection. No, that's not the whole point. The point is, if you don't wear a mask, you could be spreading the infection to your neighbors, to vulnerable people out there who have immune diseases or older people. Wear a mask when you're inside with people you don't live with.

Theresa Freed [00:03:04] And we've heard comments and questions about cases increasing being attributed to simply testing more. Can you address that?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:03:10] Well, we have definitely been able to ramp up testing in the county. We have got a number of drive through testing events happening. It's possible when your symptoms, if you have symptoms, to come and get tested. We have much more capacity nowadays to be able to do testing, but we have had that capacity ramped up for a while now. We have not made any recent new changes in ramping up of our testing. This is not due to an increase in testing. We're actually instead seeing the proportion of people who are positive going up. We're seeing the numbers that are going up, being numbers of people that we're testing from the community. So it's not just due to an increase in testing. The other question that comes up is, are we seeing an increase in hospitalizations yet? We're not yet, so much. More of the infections are happening in a younger population. But remember that there's always going to be a two week or so lag in the number of hospitalizations following along after an increase in cases. Go on our county Web site. Look at the trends. You'll see them there. We're putting it on the charts. The case numbers are going up dramatically, just as they are in other places around the country that have relaxed the stay at home orders and people are moving around more. We are in a dangerous place. You it is your responsibility to do all you can to try and limit the spread from yourself to other people. We are continuing to monitor this situation carefully. The thing that most we can most clearly do is wear masks whenever we're in an indoor setting.

Theresa Freed [00:04:50] And we're hearing some school districts and colleges are making decisions already about reopening this fall or modifying the school schedule. So does Johnson County have a role in that?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:04:59] There is a lot of questions about how schools will will reopen and will whether they will reopen in the fall. This is just to reassure those who residents who have kids in schools that we're in conversation with the superintendents of all the school districts, as well as those that are organizing sports activities or sports teams. We are open to and are to have some conversations going on with those that are recommended, with those that are organizing large group events outside the school, such as conferences or fairs or other things. We are ready, willing and able to discuss those events with you and whether they should happen and if they happen, how they should happen.

Theresa Freed [00:05:44] We've recently heard about COVID-19 clusters in businesses a restaurant among those. How does the community share that information with the public? And what do we do about those cases?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:05:53] When we get a notification of there being a case that has emerged in a workplace? We take that very seriously. We investigate that case. We identify all the contacts that that case had, which means being close to people that were not wearing a mask when the person was not wearing a mask within six feet distance and over a prolonged period, more than about 10 minutes. So we do do those kind of tracking. But the information that is collected there is part of the county health record as we're doing that, that those investigations and that information is has includes protective health information for the individuals that are involved and is managed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. So the responsibility for covering all of the bases to do the contact tracing, we do manage in the county health department. But what we are not doing is publicly and widely advertising of the case that's happened in a particular business because we have this other method that we do to follow up on it and to investigate it. So further with respect to outbreaks in businesses, fairly recently, you may have heard that in Springfield, Missouri, there was an outbreak and a hair salon where two of the hair salon operators developed COVID, and they had served a total of 140 customers. Not one case emerged among all those 140 contacts because everyone in that room were wearing masks. So if businesses in Johnson County who have a public facing side mandate that all of their employees wear masks and you as a resident go into that that business wearing a mask, the the risk of acquiring that infection in there goes way, way down. So, once again, back to the importance of wearing masks in indoor spaces, if at all possible.

Theresa Freed [00:08:20] We're obviously really emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask in public. Can you talk about when it might be appropriate to wear a mask outdoors?

Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:08:27] We have been seeing large groups of people that are in outdoor spaces, like in parks, having parties and who are not wearing masks. When is it important in an outdoor space to wear masks? We we want to emphasize that whenever it's not possible for you to be more than six feet apart from other people with whom you are not living for an extended period of time, you should be wearing a mask, even in an outdoor space. Obviously, the more people that are packed together, the harder it is to be able to maintain that six feet distance all the time for an extended period. If everyone's wearing a mask in that situation, it becomes less problematical. There is ventilation outside. But if you pack a bunch of people in, your ability to keep that far away and everybody's ability to keep that far away from each other, even in that outdoor situation, becomes less and less. There's too many people in that small space. If you are going into a place where there's a large group of people outdoors and you are not 100 percent sure you can maintain that six feet distance, you should be wearing a mask in that situation, too. If you're on your own outside or only with people that you live with all the time, then of course it's not necessary to do it. But you need to be ready. If you get into that situation where you suddenly were around a group of people that you could put a mask on. So I would recommend people have a mask in their pocket at all times, at least. So that they could put it on if they needed to.

Theresa Freed [00:10:01] And next, we have Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areaola to talk about testing.

Dr. Sanmi Areola [00:10:07] We continue to see an uptick in the number of cases. No doubt, because we have increased activities. We have businesses that are open. We have restaurants that are open. And we have a lot of movement between us and adjacent counties. And so the the transmission of the virus is increasing. And so, again, our primary way of containing the spread is to quickly identify those who are infected and isolate them and do contact tracing. So we can quarantine appropriately. There's not a time when it's more important to get tested. We're finding more and more cases in the county. One way to protect yourself and to protect your loved ones is to get tested.

Theresa Freed [00:10:58] For more information about COVID-19, visit us on jogovog.org/coronavirus. You can also subscribe to a daily newsletter with the latest data and precautions being taken in the county and state.

Announcer [00:11:11] 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.