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Public Health Administrator Gives Local Update to WROY-WRUL on Covid-19; Says It May Already Be Amongst Us Due to Limited Testing

White, Gallatin and Saline Counties are now up to nearly or just over 30 formal tests for Covid-19, and even though the virus seems to be creeping ever closer, Egyptian Health Department Public Health Administrator Jamie Byrd says our counties remain in the clear, as far as we know, for now.  He says 21 of 25 tests have come back negative, but there’s a potential issue with local health providers…

“They’re able now to use private labs as well.  The problem with that is we don’t know when they’re doing it and there could be negatives out there that have been tested that we just don’t know about.  Of course, we’d be notified if they were positive, let’s just say around 25 and that they’ve all been negative that we’ve received thus far, knock on whatever my desk is made of.”

The quest for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for emergency and first responders and law enforcement continues.  Byrd says Egyptian Health Department initially had a very modest amount of that including N95 masks, surgical masks including many that were outdated.  Last Monday (3/16), Egyptian Health Department activated their Incident Command team and appointed a logistics officer who did an inventory including a request form which they sent out to law enforcement, health providers and EMA directors.

“We’ve got back a number of those request forms and we’re filling them the best we can.  There are requests coming in for gowns and face shields and gloves…things that we don’t have stock of.  And I have received one shipment from the state of Illinois last Thursday but it was a very partial [shipment]…(he describes the request procedure) we received a case of surgical masks, a case of shields, and a case of gowns.  Understand that a case of gowns is 30.  That’s not very much.”

White County EMA Director Patrick Scates says the few masks received from Egyptian were put into the hands of EMS (ambulance personnel), police officers, sheriff deputies and jailers and he hopes to get more later this week.  Scates says he’s staying in close contact with IEMA (Illinois Emergency Management Agency) and EHD (Egyptian Health Department) to get multiple daily updates to help ensure the county is on top of what’s going on and prepared.

Many medical facilities have resorted to asking members of the public that are capable to sew masks.  We asked Byrd if those were effective and he stopped short of agreeing, instead referring that question to the facilities that are making those requests.

“I hate to speak to things that I have virtually no knowledge of.  I would refer you to [the hospitals] requesting those.  I think anything people can do to help us out, if that’s what they’re requesting and you can sew, that’s probably a good idea, but I don’t directly have a lot of knowledge regarding that.”

We also asked with restaurants only able to fill curbside pick, to go and delivery orders, how safe that was and if he had any thoughts.  He had an interesting answer.

“Really, I’d rather see them go through the drive thru somewhere than be packed up 5 deep in Wal Mart or Kroger.  I mean it’s just truth.  I’ve got parents in their 70’s and 80s so my wife and I were volunteered to do the shopping because we want to protect them so last Friday I was gonna run into Kroger after work and I didn’t even stop, I was just like ‘Oh my gosh’, I didn’t even stop.  I don’t know what the answer is to that, I really don’t, but the [lack of] social distancing in the grocery stores is….worrisome.”

The POTUS said earlier this week he wanted the country to “open back up” by Easter (April 12th).  Even though, we’re insulated in a somewhat rural area, I asked Byrd if he thought that was reasonable.  He, like most in the medical field, have reported he is not in favor of that.

“Wow, ya know that’s really pushing it I’m afraid.  Testing has been so limited in our area.  We’ve done twenty something tests in our 3 counties.  That’s a really small sample.  There have been a lot of people sick.  They’ve been asking people to stay home if they feel sick and their symptoms are mild enough.  I really believe it’s inevitable we get some cases here.  Hopefully the social distancing and sheltering in place when they can will be effective and it doesn’t get completely out of control.  I mean don’t you think it’s gotta be inevitable we’re gonna have some cases here and who knows, we may have already had people sick here and we just don’t know it yet.”

If it is indeed amongst us, and you feel unwell, Byrd said the message remains the same.

“Call your provider, first and foremost.  Discuss with them what your symptoms are and let them determine if you need to come.  Most places have set up some kind of drive through or drive up for testing.  But don’t just show up, especially at the ER.  The last thing they need in our medical facilities right now is a bunch of sick people showing up inside.  We have to protect our public obviously, but we really have to protect our nurses and doctors to make sure they’re physically able to come and take care of us if/when we are sick.”

Learn more locally by visiting https://www.egypitan.org. You can also find Egyptian Health Department on facebook and stay tuned to WROY/WRUL Media for the latest on the Covid-19 pandemic as it develops.

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