Local Cities, Schools Prepare For Coronavirus

coronavirus news
While health officials have said that wearing a mask is not necessary for healthy American’s, in China it was necessary even before the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Rita Cook

Local Cities & Area Schools Discuss COVID-19 Preparedness

DESOTO – It’s all over the news this week. Reports of the coronavirus – official name – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) finding its way to the United States.

However, before people locally and nationally become paranoid, which can result in poor decision-making, remember the World Health Organization reminded “China has fewer than 80,000 cases in a population of 1.4 billion people. In the rest of the world, there are 2,790 cases, in a population of 6.3 billion.”

“It is important to be prepared for a coronavirus incident in the area,” said District 109 State Representative Carl Sherman. “Several of the cities in District 109 already have plans in place in case of any emergency situations such as this. I will be monitoring the coronavirus updates daily and am committed to assuring residents in my district and beyond are given any resources necessary if needed.”

Sherman is correct about the cities in his district being prepared.

Glenn Heights fire chief says the city is prepared

In Glenn Heights, Fire Chief Keith Moore said that the city stands ready to address any medical issue that affects the community.

“Our staff is provided with the essential equipment to address patient needs and staff protection when dealing with possible Novel Coronavirus or any other similar infectious issues,” Moore explained. “As Fire Chief/Emergency Management Coordinator, I have been monitoring this virus through our regional partners and county health officials, along with state and federal agencies. At this time, the City of Glenn Heights does not have any individuals being monitored for the novel coronavirus.”

The City of DeSoto also issued a statement.

“The City of DeSoto, along with our neighbors from the Best Southwest Partnership Cities of Duncanville, Cedar Hill and Lancaster, are in daily communication concerning public health threats including the coronavirus and seasonal influenza. Our EMS chiefs and regional emergency management work together with Dallas County Health and Human Services, Medical Control and Medical Directors, and hold daily conference calls with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Together we monitor for the coronavirus and more immediate health threats such as seasonal influenza. While there have been no cases of coronavirus in North Texas, seasonal influenza has already claimed 17 lives in Dallas County. Fortunately, the universal precautions that people can take for one of these infectious diseases will work for others.”

Dallas County Health issues list of precautions

The Dallas County Health and Human Services advises that to be safe, residents should take simple precautions:

Frequent and thorough hand washing

Not touching your eyes, nose or mouths

Coughing or sneezing into a tissue and throwing it away

Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects

Avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are sick.

School districts in the area are also taking precautions.

“Grand Prairie ISD is monitoring information regarding the novel coronavirus,” said Sam Buchmeyer, public information officer for Grand Prairie ISD. “We are in contact with Dallas County Health and Human Services in conjunction with the CDC to get the latest updates including necessary precautions and protocols. We will inform our community as we receive updates, information and resources.”

In addition, Grand Prairie ISD has formed an internal task force to address issues. They are looking at logistics, instruction, communications, technology, finances, transportation, food services and any other board- or state-related compliance issue.

DeSoto ISD has a standard practice of maintaining a clean school environment, said Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones, director of Communications.

“As is customary in school districts during flu season and as has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, we make it a point to frequently clean and sanitize our schools and classrooms regularly throughout the school day and each night during routine cleaning practices,” she said.

“We encourage families who may have a member of the household displaying signs or symptoms of cold and/or flu to be proactive in seeking treatment and evaluation with a healthcare professional,” Blackmon-Jones added.

World Health Organization says more coronavirus cases outside China this week

The World Health Organization reported this week outside China, there are now 2,790 cases in 37 countries, and 44 deaths. This week the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time.

However, according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Dallas County.

“As of Feb. 24, 2020, there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Dallas County and the health risk to the general public remains low. DCHHS is working closely with regional partners to prevent the spread of coronavirus to Dallas County, including public health monitoring of travelers screened at national airports, outreach and educational efforts to local hospitals and health care providers, educational institutions and many other local partners,” a DCCHS spokesman said.

“Diseases from coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate illness, like the common cold. Some, like the SARS or MERS viruses, have caused more severe illness. The current novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, is still primarily impacting areas within China. However, there have been confirmed cases in other countries including the United States. Most U.S. cases are associated with repatriation efforts to return individuals from areas abroad with high rates of COVID-19 — these cases were expected, identified, well-controlled, and do not pose a threat to the public,” a DCHHS press release reported.

World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday during a mission briefing on COVID-19 “As of 6 a.m. Geneva time this morning, China has reported 78,190 cases to WHO, including 2718 deaths. Yesterday, only 10 new cases were reported in China outside of Hubei province. But this is no time for complacency. This is a time for continued vigilance.”

Virus seems to have peaked in China

The WHO joint mission reported the epidemic in China seemed to have peaked and plateaued between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has been declining steadily since that time.

Mention of the increased reports of illness in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea were alarming, the director-general said. There have also been cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman as well as Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

“The increase in cases outside China has prompted some media and politicians to push for a pandemic to be declared,” Ghebreyesus said. “We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts.

“WHO has already declared a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm,” he said. “Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems. It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true. We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right things. Of course, we will not hesitate to use the word pandemic if it is an accurate description of the situation.

“We are monitoring the evolution of the epidemic around the clock, 24/7 and are engaging experts internally and externally on this issue,” he said. “For the moment, we are not witnessing sustained and intensive community transmission of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death.”

Coronavirus has also done economic damage

The director-general said he was not downplaying the seriousness of the situation, or the potential for it to become a pandemic. He also noted the potential for economic damage.

“We are not just fighting to contain a virus and save lives. We are also in a fight to contain the social and economic damage a global pandemic could do,” he said. “We are working with the World Bank and the IMF to estimate the potential economic impact of the epidemic and develop a strategy and policy options for mitigation. We’re in constant contact with the heads of the two organizations. Once again, this is a time for global solidarity – political solidarity, technical solidarity and financial solidarity. That is the only way to prevent infections and save lives.”

Dallas County Health and Human Service Coronavirus Resources: https://www.dallascounty.org/departments/dchhs/2019-novel-coronavirus.php

State of Texas Department of State Health Services Coronavirus Resources: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/#public

Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services has established a hotline. This hotline serves as an additional resource for any questions about novel coronavirus:

DSHS COVID-19 Call Center: 1-877-570-9779

Hours: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Friday

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Coronavirus Resources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html