Spaulding ‘cautiously optimistic’ curve will stay flat

By OLIVIA INGLE
oingle@dcherald.com

Jo Ann Spaulding said it’s difficult to predict what will happen with COVID-19.

“So much depends on everyone doing their part,” the Dubois County Health Department’s administrative director said. “From what we have seen around the county, we are cautiously optimistic that we will continue with our curve remaining relatively flat.”

The Indiana State Department of Health predicts that COVID-19 will peak in the state sometime during the first couple weeks of May, which Spaulding said is likely for Dubois County as well.

“So far, the curve for Dubois County has been relatively flat,” Spaulding said, “therefore, we would expect that Dubois County will follow the predictions for the rest of the state.”

“Flattening the curve” means using isolation measures to slow the spread of the disease so that case numbers are manageable for the health care system. The term “peak” refers to the time when an area reaches its largest number of new, positive COVID-19 cases per day. The peak can occur over several days before dropping off.

Dubois County has 16 positive COVID-19 cases, and the turnaround for test results is now “two to three days,” Spaulding said.

The county health department is working to gather data from the confirmed cases, such as how many confirmed cases have required hospitalization and how many have required a ventilator. “A report will be given once the information has been compiled into a usable format that will still follow HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines,” Spaulding said.

The county health department’s public health nurses are part of a case investigation team that is responsible for checking on testing; communicating with the testing sites; and gathering information from positive COVID-19 patients, such as demographics, close contacts and symptoms.

“Questions are also asked to determine if the patient could have been a threat to the public’s health,” Spaulding said. “If so, that information is released so individuals who may have been exposed can take the necessary precautions.”

Close contact, Spaulding said, includes being within 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer while the person is symptomatic or in direct contact with respiratory secretions from the infected person. The investigation team will notify a person if they have been named a close contact to a positive case.

“We will tell the public about places a positive individual has been when it is established as a public health threat to others who may have been exposed,” Spaulding said. “During an investigation, we ask positive cases if they visited any other locations in the community where they would have had close contact with other people while infectious. In the past, we have provided information on cases that required such disclosure and will continue to in the future.”

Some of the worst things Spaulding has seen people doing that they shouldn’t be include people ignoring the stay-at-home order (which Gov. Eric Holcomb has extended through May 1), and people not social distancing and not wearing a cloth face covering.

She said people should wear a cloth face covering when near anyone outside their household. Everyone seen in public — such as store workers and customers — should also wear one.

“When going out for groceries and other essentials, only one person should go if possible, wear your cloth face coverings, get what you need and get home,” Spaulding said. “It is important to frequently wash your hands, not touch your face and avoid having parties or family gatherings.”

The local emergency declaration has allowed the Dubois County Health Department’s staff to focus all their time on the COVID-19 pandemic response, Spaulding said.

The department is working collaboratively with nursing homes, Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center and more than 40 agencies.

“We’re grateful for the partnerships built between these groups,” Spaulding said. “All continue to be focused on the health and wellness of our community.”




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