MOUNT GILEAD — John Harsch, Director of Emergency Management met with Morrow County Commissioners Monday at their request, to talk about Morrow County’s response to the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
Harsch said that the Morrow County Health Department is the lead for the local response and the commissioners asked Harsch to come in to the Wednesday commissioners meeting with County Health District Commissioner and the hospital emergency personnel.
At the county commissioners meeting Wednesday morning, the three county health officials listed the ways the county emergency management, county health district and county hospital are responding to the new COVID-19 virus.
Morrow County Health Commissioner Stephanie Bragg said the Morrow County Health District has been receiving phone calls from the Ohio Department of Health since January 2020 about the new coronavirus COVID-19. The ODH has provided situation reports and recommendations.
Since then public health calls have come in to the county from ODH at least twice a week with a Center for Disease Control call weekly.
Bragg noted that the disease is very spreadable from respiratory droplets. She added that the good news is that 80 percent of people who contract the virus will have mild symptoms that are more like a cold.
However, 15-20 percent will have more serious symptoms. Those more at risk are the elderly and people with heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and other health issues.
Morrow County Hospital Acute care and Infection control nurse, Jessica Schwartz spoke briefly about the hospital’s response. She said they are following the ODH guidelines on testing and coordinating with the County Health Department and ODH for guidance.
Actions being recommended:
• For persons with symptoms of the virus, ODH has test kits and guidance for the Health District for testing. They are recommending testing for other types of flu virus first and ruling those out before testing for COVID-19.
• Bragg received an email from Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday suspending large gatherings. Schools have not yet been suspended. These are strong recommendations, not orders.
• Traveling out of state and out of country is strongly discouraged.
• Bragg emphasized that anyone with a suspected case should call the Morrow County Health Department to get guidance on what to do. Their phone number is 419-947-1545, Extension 303.
• Ohio call center is open to answer questions about COVID-19 seven days a week from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. at 1-833-427-5634.
Bragg said that with a new disease, people have no prior immunity to it. There is also no effective treatment to cure it. A vaccine against it does not yet exist. All of these factors are why a new virus is of public health concern. It is the responsibility of health officials to take steps to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 and all other communicable disease.
“There will be less time lost and a quicker end to this emergency if the virus can be stopped,” Bragg said. “That’s why we are recommending not having big events or going out of state.”
In other developments:
• Interim Superintendent Larry Zimmerman said, “In order to be well planned in case the State of Ohio mandates state-wide school district closures, the Mt. Gilead School District will cancel school tomorrow, Friday March 13. The staff will use that day to better plan in case there is a mandated long-term closure.”
• The OHSAA canceled all sporting events, including the state wrestling tournament where several local athletes were scheduled to participate.
• Colleges and universities, including The Ohio State University-Marion and Marion Technical College campus, suspended classroom activity this week. Remote learning is being conducted on many college campuses.