By Cindy Jackson
July 9, 2020
“[COVID-19] is not about places, it is about people . . . About one in five cases don’t know where they may have contracted the virus.” Dr. Seidel
Dr. Ngo-Seidel, Director, Florida Department of Health of Nassau County, gave a very interesting and informative presentation to the Board of County Commissioners at its meeting of July 8, 2020. Here is a synopsis of that discussion presented in a question and answer format.
WHERE CAN I GET INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19?
The website of the Florida Department of Health is the best source of information.
It provides information on case status, the rate of hospitalizations, test positivity rates in addition to other important demographic data the median age, sex and ethnicity of those testing positive. Statewide statistics are provided as well as individual county profiles. It is updated daily at 11 am.
“It is available to everyone all the time,” is a comment Dr. Seidel reiterated several times during her presentation.
WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I WAS EXPOSED TO CORONAVIRUS?
As explained on the website, people with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms — ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after contact with the virus.
Use the CDC’s self-checker (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html) to help make decisions and seek appropriate medical care regarding COVID-19.
You may have COVID-19 if you have these symptoms or combinations of symptoms:
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of these symptoms:
• Repeated shaking with chills
• Muscle pain
• Sore throat
• New loss of taste or smell
NOTE: Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
WHAT IS CONTACT TRACING?
Contact Tracing is a tool used in public health and is an important part of a containment strategy. Contact tracing attempts to limit the spread of a disease by identifying who has been exposed, who is ill and who needs to be isolated. (For more information view chart at end of the article.)
The Department of Health relies on the individual who tested positive (the case) to provide the names of individuals who they have been in close contact with in the last 14 days. The Department of Health will NOT compromise confidentiality.
WILL MY CONTACTS KNOW IF I GOT THEM SICK?
All public health professionals who conduct contact tracing are highly trained in confidentiality. When they talk to individuals who have been in contact with a case, they do not share any information about that person under any circumstance.
WHO DOES CONTACT TRACING?
The Department of Health currently has 12 individuals performing contact tracing but recently received additional funding to hire more personnel. The goal is to have 25 qualified individuals in place.
Ideally, individual names provided to the Department of Health by the case would be contacted within 24-48 hours.
The exponential growth in positive cases has created a massive workload. The Department of Health encourages cases to contact the individuals they may have exposed to the virus if they feel comfortable doing so.
Said Seidel, “it is not about places, it is about people.” Siedel also noted that about one in five cases don’t know where they may have contracted the virus.
Education is a large part of the contact tracing effort as well.
WHAT IS CLOSE CONTACT?
Close contact is defined as being within six feet of an individual for a period of 15-20 minutes, usually in an enclosed space.
This explains why most infections result from the home or workplace.
Briefly standing in line at the grocery store, for instance, is NOT considered close contact.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE?
Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.
Isolation is a term used for individuals who have tested positive and is intended to separate them from individuals who are not sick.
Quarantine refers to restricting the movement of individuals who may have been exposed to a contagious disease — to see if they become sick. A quarantine, in the case of COVID-19, is for 14 days.
The time between exposure to the COVID-19 virus and the onset of symptoms is called the “incubation period.” The incubation period for COVID-19 is 2 to 14 days.
“If I go out and get immediately tested and it shows that and I am fine, it doesn’t mean anything,” explained Dr. Seidel. She went on to explain that, “someone exposed to the virus may not develop the virus on Day 2, Day 5, Day 7 or Day 9 . . .” Said Seidel, “COVID-19 can be spread up two days before symptoms are experienced.” In essence, someone exposed to the virus is like a ticking time bomb. Hence the importance of wearing masks and quarantining.
DO MASKS (really) SERVE A PURPOSE?
Masks do serve a purpose. Masks are a protection measure. Because so many individuals who carry COVID-19 do not present any outward symptoms, it’s important to ensure that you are not spreading the disease and that you protect yourself. Individuals can spread the disease even if they haven’t tested positive.
WHAT TESTS ARE USED TO DIAGNOSE COVID-19?
PCR tests, which stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction are the most common test and regarded as the most accurate. It requires a throat swab. Samples are sent to a testing lab and results usually take a few days.
An antigen test is known for providing “rapid results.” An antigen is a term for any foreign object – like a virus or bacteria. – found in the body. Like the PCR, it requires a nasal or throat swab with results available in several hours. Often described as something akin to a strep test.
An antibody test requires a blood sample but only shows if an individual has had a past infection. A person who tests positive for the antibodies is not considered a case. An antibody test is not a diagnostic tool but instead is used primarily to track the spread of the coronavirus through a population.
IF AN INDIVIDUAL TESTS POSITIVE AND THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT IS MADE AWARE, HOW IS THE SITUATION MONITORED?
While the Department of Health will call cases to follow up and to see if there are any additional needs, self-isolation and quarantine is a voluntary agreement. Self-governance is the rule.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF COVID-19 IN NASSAU COUNTY?
As presented on the Nassau County dashboard Wednesday, July 8, 2020, there have been 359 cases, 27 hospitalizations and two deaths here in Nassau County.
The most up to date information can be accessed at https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/96dd742462124fa0b38ddedb9b25e429,
Reported Seidel, “We’ve had an increase in cases, an increase in percent positivity. You all [speaking to the commissioners] took the lead and take action to prevent the further spread in our community . . . not only by reinforcing the strategies with regard to Phase II of re-opening [but also by encouraging] limited capacity, social distancing, staying apart, avoiding crowds and then the mask order that took effect last week.”
Dr. Seidel went on to say, “Hopefully, we will see a decrease or a flattening in our cases but we might still see an increase because there is a lag between when we take action and when we see results.”
WHERE CAN I GET TESTED?
The Nassau County Department publishes a flyer that lists places and times. However, as Siedel noted, supplies are often limited and that continues to be a challenge.
Residents of Nassau County can also go to any one of the free Duval County testing sites – a list of which is available at https://floridadisaster.org/covid19/testing-sites/#duval .
In addition, many local urgent care centers and health care providers now offer testing.
While the news that Dr. Seidel delivered with regard to the increase in cases and in positivity rates was discouraging, she ended her presentation by saying,
“I don’t want [residents of Nassau County] to be fearful, I want them to be cautious.”
For the latest news and information and County statistics, go to https://floridahealthcovid19.gov
and to view a very comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions, (FAQs) you can visit this page https://floridahealthcovid19.gov