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SFCHC investigating two cases of COVID
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SFCHC investigating two cases of COVID

SFCHC investigating first COVID case, expects more soon

St. Francois County Health Center Director Amber Elliott gives an update to members of the media and to residents through Facebook Live on Monday. The health center plans to stream updates on Tuesday and Thursdays through Facebook to keep residents updated about COVID-19 information.

St. Francois County now has two confirmed cases of COVID-19, according the St. Francois County Health Center.

Director Amber Elliott announced the first case Sunday afternoon and announced the second case Monday night. 

The second case was said to be a female in her 20s. She is a healthcare professional who works outside St. Francois County. As of press time, they were still investigating how exactly she contracted the illness but suspected it was due to her line of work. She is in isolation at her home. 

SFCHC was working to identify and notify close contacts. They planned an update via Facebook Live Tuesday afternoon.

During a press release earlier Monday, Elliott said the Missouri State Health Lab tested six St. Francois County residents for COVID-19. Four tests were still pending. The positive test she mentioned was from Sunday. 

Elliott said the woman who tested positive Sunday is being cooperative and is recovering at home in isolation. She is her in 30s and was exposed to a patient who tested positive for the virus at her workplace, which is not in St. Francois County. The woman started having symptoms on Wednesday and was tested on Friday through the state health lab.

“We always in public health have to toe the line on patient privacy and also public information,” Elliott said. “The people that need to know that they were exposed to this confirmed case will know, but we want to maintain patient privacy and we want to maintain her safety as well.”

According to CDC guidelines, the woman will need to be in isolation until 72 hours after her recovery, which means she is free of symptoms without the use of fever-reducing medications.

“We have begun our epidemiologic investigation, which includes identifying close contacts to this person and retracing their steps as to where they've been since their exposure and since they've become symptomatic,” Elliott said.

Close contact, according to Elliott, is being within six feet of someone for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.

“So it can't be just as much as even sharing an airspace in a large room,” Elliott said, “you have to have some close contact.”

Elliott also said they have contacted about 50 households who attended the March 14 wedding at Heritage Hall in Bonne Terre where two out-of-state attendees later tested positive for COVID-19. Although she said there may be more who weren’t on the guest list.

Guests of the wedding are being asked to quarantine through March 28. According to Elliott, if they have a fever of 100.4 or greater, a cough, or shortness of breath, they are to call their health care provider. If they become urgently ill with symptoms, they are to call their hospital before showing up.

“Our hospitals have been preparing for this for weeks over the last month,” Elliott said, “and they are ready to deal with the situation. But to prevent any exposures, we ask that you call your health care provider or your hospital before visiting them.”

Two local residents who attended the wedding did develop symptoms and have been tested through the state health lab, Elliott said. One test was negative and the other is pending.

Elliott also emphasized that a person only needs to quarantine if they have direct contact with someone who tests positive; not if they have direct contact with someone who is just in quarantine.

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Quarantine, unlike isolation, is “people who are well, but they've been exposed and they have a chance of developing the disease,” according to Elliott. Isolation is isolating someone who has tested positive to stop the spread of the virus.

Elliott also said 10 St. Francois County residents have been tested through private labs. And she expects to see more positive cases as testing continues to increase.

“We know that over the past few weeks, Missouri has not had the great capabilities to test,” Elliott said. “As that increases again we expect to see more cases. It is imperative to prevent the surge to our hospital system to allow them to take care of patients. Again, this will save lives. The recommendations are changing every day, sometimes by the hour. We will do our best to provide that to our partners and we will provide that to the public. But what we ask you is to stay home if you can.”

Elliott stressed that residents follow the governor’s order that was released on Saturday, which includes avoiding gathering of more than 10 people; not eating at restaurants, bars, and food courts; and not visiting nursing homes, retirement homes, long-term care facilities, and assisted living facilities.

This does not apply to delivery and carry-out services for food. And it is OK for residents to go to the store, bank, gas stations, and parks as long as precautions are taken and a distance of six feet is maintained between non-family members. If a workplace remains open, social distancing and good hygiene must be practiced, and working from home if possible is recommended. People over 65 and people whose immune systems are compromised are urged to stay home.

“These things will save lives,” Elliott. “You may not know that you're saving a life, but you are.”

"We know that this is a hard and stressful time, and there are many unknowns. And we know that people are concerned and have many anxieties regarding the situation with COVID-19. I know you've heard this before, but this is an unprecedented event. This is something that we have not seen since the 1918 flu pandemic. We are going to all have to work together, our agencies are working with other agencies and partners in the community. We want to prevent the spread of this disease and to slow the spread in the community.”

If resident have any questions about the virus, Elliott suggested they visit the CDC website or call the state Coronavirus hotline at 877-435-8411. If they have questions about the virus locally, they can call the health center main office at 573-431-1947.

The health center will also be doing Facebook Live updates on Tuesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. If you have a question, you can submit it through the health center’s website by 4 p.m. the day before.

Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at noverfelt@dailyjournalonline.com.

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