Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode, get the very latest on the disease in Johnson County, you'll hear from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment leaders as they discuss the importance of not letting down your guard during the upcoming holiday weekend. We'll also talk about the importance of wearing a mask, and antibody testing, and they'll respond to recent CDC information on mortality rates involving those with COVID-19.
Announcer [00:00:22] 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 [00:00:35] 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. Since early on in this pandemic, we've shared consistent messages about the importance of wearing masks, maintaining at least six feet of physical distance, staying home when you're sick and washing hands frequently. Important steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. Continuing our discussion around those key safety precautions, we have Johnson County Department of Health and Environment director Dr. Sami Areola with information about why wearing masks is so important.
Dr. Sanmi Areola [00:01:06] We are dealing with a virus that is unlike anything that we have seen before. Still, the primary mode of circulation is through aerosols and droplets. When we sneeze, when we cough, when we speak, when we sing. And so the beauty or the idea behind wearing mask, even though they're not technically personal protective equipment, they work. If I wear a mask, I am protected from you. And again, when I sneeze or cough, there's a barrier that would stop the release of those materials. Yes, it is okay to have openness here and there in the cloth mask that we will. And yes, it is possible for some particles to escape. But the overall construct is you are creating a barrier rather than just sneezing and coughing and everything goes out straight. That stops it. And that's an advantage. Wearing masks does not replace the need to physical distance because again, these are not personal protective equipment. You still need to keep physical distance. You still need to wash your hands. But it is extremely important too. I see people wearing the mask and it's only covering their mouth. That's not going to work. So, again, key areas is what we call the T zone, which is the the eye down to the nose and the mouth. Now, we don't recommend always wearing goggles but the mouth and the nose remain critical avenues to release viral particle into the environment. So if you cover your nose, you cover your mouth. You are protecting other people and when others wear a mask in turn, they are protecting you from themselves. The more of us that wear masks, the better we're able to contain the spread of the virus. If we get 95, 100 percent of us to wear a mask for four to six weeks, our positivity rate, which is really a measure of the level of transmission in the coming to fall. And so we'll expect to limit the number of new infections.
Theresa Freed [00:03:30] As we approach the Labor Day weekend. Following those safety precautions is important. But we're saying the coronavirus doesn't take a holiday and we shouldn't let our guard down. Here's Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Epidemiology Director Elizabeth Holzschuh with more on that.
Elizabeth Holzschuh [00:03:45] As Labor Day approaches we want to remind you of ways that you can keep yourself, your family and our community well, during this pandemic. First of all, if you are sick, please stay home. If you've gotten tested for coronavirus, wait until those test results come back before venturing out and being around your friends and family. If you do go out during this Labor Day weekend, please wear a mask and stay physically distanced from other individuals. This means that even if you're going to an outdoor barbecue, try and keep that mask on as much as possible, particularly when you're close to your friends and family. This will help prevent the spread because we know with COVID you can spread it even if you're feeling perfectly fine before your symptoms begin or if you don't ever have any symptoms. Try to avoid large gatherings, particularly inside. If you are going to get together, stay outside, stay apart from other individuals, you know, set those chairs up six feet apart while you're having your your hotdogs and your hamburgers. Also, if you've been told that you're a close contact of somebody who has coronavirus, you need to stay home for the entire 14 days from the time you're last around them. Even if you get tested during that time and it comes back negative. You could still develop, COVID and spread it to the ones that you love. So stay home and wait for those 14 days to be finished before visiting with others. Be safe. Be well. This is how we keep our community safe. We all have to come together, especially as we start school, to ensure that we're not spreading coronavirus to the ones that we love.
Theresa Freed [00:05:09] Elizabeth, can you also address the recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the cause of death for those who have COVID-19 at the time they passed away?
Elizabeth Holzschuh [00:05:18] There's been a lot of misinformation in the media and circulating around that only six percent of people who have died with COVID actually died from COVID. I want to dispel those myths right now. First, let me say that when somebody signs a death certificate, oftentimes it is about they died from pneumonia due to COVID-19 or as an example, if I have diabetes and I'm attacked by a bear. And in the ICU, the doctors can't control my blood sugar and I end up dying. It's the bear that actually caused my death and not my diabetes. It's the same sort of thing when we talk about COVID. Somebody may have diabetes or have hypertension or some other preexisting condition and they would be okay. They would be doing well in their life and being able to live their life as they had been. But then they get COVID and COVID causes the body to react in a different way and causes their death. So these death certificates that had other preexisting conditions does not mean that this individual did not die from COVID. They likely would still be alive at this point had they not contracted this infection. KCMO looked at their data and found that in the last five years, a hundred percent, every single one of their death certificates had two or more conditions listed as cause of death. So the fact that six percent of the death certificates with COVID-19 listed had no other preexisting conditions. This is really shocking, but also reflects what we know about this disease. We know and we've been saying for a long time that people who die from COVID are more likely to die if they have these other conditions. Now, these individuals are people's loved ones, people's family members, and they were fine before COVID came into our communities and infected them. We all need to be vigilant. We all need to be working together to prevent the transmission of COVID so that nobody else has to die from this disease, whether or not they have a preexisting condition or not. The majority of the deaths in Johnson County have been in individuals over the age of 70. However, we know that people under this age group are also at risk for severe illness and sometimes death across the board. We know that individuals with preexisting conditions are at a greater risk of dying or having severe illness. Among those are things like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. So if you have a preexisting condition. Be extra vigilant. Be careful about who you're around and ensure that when you are around other people, both you and that person are wearing masks, keeping your distance and you're washing your hands and staying home as much as possible. The thing that makes COVID really difficult is that we know that we can spread the disease before we begin our symptoms. So when we're feeling fine and thinking that there's nothing wrong, we're interacting with our friends and family and coworkers and all of these other individuals in our community, and we could be spreading the virus to them. And you don't know if those individuals have a preexisting condition or are more likely to have some sort of severe illness. So we all have a part to play in keeping our community members safe and to be wearing masks when we're around other individuals, keeping six feet of distance or more as much as humanly possible. Washing our hands. And if you're sick, please stay home. If you've been exposed to COVID and have been told to quarantine for 14 days, you need to really be staying home for all 14 days because it may take that long for your symptoms to begin. And so we want to make sure that we stop the transmission with each and every one of us and not, in fact, somebody else in our community that may cause a loss of life.
Theresa Freed [00:08:41] Testing remains an important strategy to address the disease. And we've received questions about antibody testing and whether that's an effective way to gauge spread in the community. Here with details on that is Johnson County local health officer, Dr. Joseph LeMaster.
Dr. Joseph LeMaster [00:08:55] At the beginning, the antibodies that we had when we talked about this a few months ago were just not good enough to use. Really you have to have an antibody test, which is ninety nine point nine percent specific and sensitive. That means its accuracy is extremely high for it to be able to tell you anything about what's going on in the community. These tests still remain to be best to be used in the vaccine trials after there's been a known exposure to the coronavirus proteins to see if there's an antibody response. That's what they were actually developed for in the first place. Or if you have someone who had a symptomatic disease, who was who we think had COVID early on but was unable to obtain the nasal swab at the time. That will give us more information. There is still an issue about using it in the community. If you test a lot of people who are asymptomatic and you don't know whether they've been positive or not. And in terms of their nasal swab. You're going to still see a fairly high percentage of false positives in those tests. Even with a very strong, strongly accurate or highly accurate test. So the answer is simply that we use it either to see the response to vaccine or whether people have developed immunity after known infection or highly suspicious infection. If you had a person that had a cough or shortness of breath or low oxygen with a high fever. But for some reason, they hadn't been able to get nasal swabs or any of the other tests. The antibody tests would be a way us to look at it after the fact. The big problem with using antibody tests is that they don't really tell us what we need to know to control the virus. By the time you do the antibody tests, let's say we were going to try and use it and for control efforts. Well, the problem is, is that you don't respond in terms of coming up on your antibodies. The earliest that your antibodies increase after exposure is 14 days. So by the time you have an antibody response, then your incubation period has already passed. And you have been out spreading the virus. If you didn't know that you were positive and you weren't quarantining that, you would have in 14 days positive for at least 14 days, positive for the the virus and out there in the community, spreading it around without knowing that because your antibodies will never be positive less than 14 days after you got infected. So it doesn't really help us in the same way that the antigen tests via the nasal or even the saliva swabs that are coming out doesn't help us in the same way to prevent transmission.
Theresa Freed [00:11:47] For more information about COVID-19, in Johnson County, visit jocogov.org/coronavirus. You can also subscribe to a daily newsletter for the latest data and precautions being taken in the county and state. Thanks for joining us and thanks for listening.
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