County keeps tabs on virus investigations
LISBON — While the Columbiana County number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 19 with 12 hospitalizations as of Wednesday, county Health Department officials assured the public they are following up and using CDC guidance to keep track of every case.
Jamie Elanz, the department’s epidemiologist and medical services administrator, and Laura Fauss, public information officer and sanitarian, said they wanted to help people in the county gain a better understanding after hearing people are really having fears about who should or should not be in quarantine. Many of those concerns, Fauss said are being raised from what people are seeing on social media.
The health department started training its disease investigating staff when CDC guidelines was first released in early March. Usually, Elanz is the only one in county tasked with following up on communicable diseases, but due to the number of expected COVID-19 cases, the staff added additional people.
There are now eight disease investigators trained and working on following up on the cases in Columbiana County, including people on the staff of the health department and some local school nurses who know the community and are used to working with them. Additionally, the program is being expanded to further prepare in case of a surge. The eight current investigators do not include additional disease investigators working at the Salem and East Liverpool city health department and the FCI-Elkton federal prison, which has had two cases confirmed earlier this week. The prison’s two cases are included in the 19 cases across Columbiana County.
When an employee develops symptoms, the employer is required to send the employee home. If that employee tests positive, the disease investigators speak to the patient or a family member if they are unable to talk at that time. Elanz said they ask that person for a list of everyone they have been in contact with since symptoms developed. Then they start calling everyone on that list and asking them to self-quarantine at home for the next 14 days.
The disease investigator then continues to follow up with them. Elanz said the investigator will call those in quarantine twice a day for the 14 days. Not only does it give them a chance to make certain that person is not violating the quarantine, but the investigator asks if they are showing any symptoms and answers the questions the may be having about coronavirus.
Fauss points out the people in Columbiana County are very protective of their communities and the people living in them. At this point, everyone who has been asked to quarantine has been very cooperative Fauss said.
In addition, Elanz said anyone traveling back from one of the endemic countries on a list, which includes China, Japan, Iran and Italy, also receives the calls from a disease investigator. Happy to be back in the area, the global travelers also are agreeing to quarantine for 14 days.
The 14-day quarantine and disease investigation processes are designed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are contacting every contact,” Elanz said, adding people should not be concerned if they were in contact with someone before they were symptomatic.
Additional information on the CDC guidelines for disease investigation can be found at the website www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/guidance-evaluating-pui.html
The state of Ohio numbers climbed to 2,547 confirmed cases, the largest rise over a day yet at 348 new cases. There are now 679 hospitalized across the state and 65 deaths.