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County Officials Following VDH Protocols for COVID-19

Post Date:03/14/2020 11:08 AM
BERRYVILLE, VA (March 14, 2020) Clarke County Board of Supervisors chair David Weiss convened a special meeting of government department heads on March 13 to hear a COVID-19 presentation by Dr. Colin Greene, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District at Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Those who attended include Millwood District Supervisor Terri Catlett, County Administrator Chris Boies, Sheriff Tony Roper, Director of Fire, EMS & Emergency Management Brian Lichty, superintendent of Clarke County Public Schools Chuck Bishop, Berryville Town Manager Keith Dalton, Berryville Police Chief Neal White, Director of Parks & Recreation Lisa Cooke, Director of Elections Barbara Bosserman, and Director of Public Information Cathy Kuehner. 

Every county department began preparing for the disease since it made national headlines in late December. However, COVID-19 – also called novel coronavirus – has spread rapidly, and health agencies such as VDH want localities to have accurate, up-to-date information.

“We believe we are following all appropriate protocols as dictated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health,” Weiss said. “We have been actively monitoring the situation day by day, and we have been developing contingency plans in every department. Inviting Dr. Greene to share with us current information and best practices is an essential part of our planning.”

Seven types of coronaviruses have been known since the 1960s, Dr. Green said. Four are common, causing the flu and colds. Three are serious, including COVID-19, which was first identified in  December 2019.

“As of this afternoon, there are 30 known cases of COVID-19 in Virginia,” said Dr. Greene on March 13. “Two weeks ago there were none. We will have a case [in Clarke] any day now.”

COVID-19 is spread person to person. An infected person sneezes or coughs, particles are in the air and/or land on surfaces. Other people inhale the particles, or touch the same surface, before touching their own eyes, nose, or mouth.

COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath – may appear two to 14 days after exposure. Individuals who are most at risk are those ages 60 and older, those with chronic diseases, and those who have compromised immune systems. 

Dr. Greene reiterated what the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Virginia Department of Health have identified as the most effective ways to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the toilet; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water when hands are visibly dirty.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid crowds. Do not travel to high-risk areas.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick, even if it is not coronavirus.
• Completely cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then put the tissue in the trash.
• Or, cough/sneeze into your elbow/shoulder, placing your mouth on the sleeve.
• Seek medical attention if you are sick, but FIRST call your primary-care doctor, emergency room, or urgent-care center. Explain you may have been exposed, so they can make arrangements to receive you away from other patients. 

Governor Ralph Northam on March 12 declared a state of emergency in Virginia in response to the continued spread of COVID-19. On March 13, the governor ordered all kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks.

Children do not appear to be at particular risk from the novel coronavirus, Dr. Greene said, but there is significant concern they could contract the virus at school and bring it home to older relatives and neighbors.

Clarke County Public Schools, which planned to close March 16, so faculty could prepare for the possibility of online teaching, are now closed at least through Friday, March 27.

“Take this seriously. We don’t know what COVID-19 will do next,” Dr. Green said. “Taking people out of circulation – closing schools, canceling public events – is wise. The goal is to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Supervisor Weiss said, “We continue to refine and develop contingency plans for our first responders and our residents who are most at risk. We are also making arrangements to reduce risk for all residents, visitors, and our county employees as well as keeping our government meetings on schedule.”

At this time, Town of Berryville and Clarke County government offices remain open. Housekeeping in government buildings has been expanded to include frequent cleaning and disinfecting of door handles and countertops.

Clarke County’s Department of Fire, EMS and Emergency Management is in almost daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). County emergency management priorities include:
• Preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak in county,
• equipping first responders with essential supplies and reviewing infectious disease protocols,
• reducing risks for employees, residents, and visitors,
• maintaining government operations if an outbreak occurs in the county, and
• ensuring public information is accurate and questions are answered in a timely manner.

Updates will be posted on clarkecounty.gov and Clarke County, Virginia on Facebook.

More Information:
Do not rely on social media, news broadcasts, or friends for information about the coronavirus. Go to the following sources for accurate information about the disease in the U.S.

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
• Virginia Department of Health
• World Health Organization
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