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Carter County Health Department preparing for COVID-19

John Thompson • Mar 29, 2020 at 1:13 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Health Department has a big job even in the most routine times. The department oversees many state and federal programs intended to improve health and nutrition at the lowest levels of government.

Caroline Hurt is the director of the Carter County Health Department and the Johnson County Health Department. She was interviewed late last week to find out how the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was impacting the health departments and the counties.

Hurt said that currently no one had tested positive for COVID-19 in Carter County, but with cases of the virus already being reported in surrounding counties, she expected to see the first Carter County case soon. Indeed, a few hours after the interview, it was announced that an employee of Milligan College had tested positive for COVID-19.

With the health department’s multiple roles and large number of people receiving its services, how does the department prevent patients who might have the extremely contagious COVID-19 from infecting other patients? Hurt said the department has a triage system that is designed to keep potential cases from contaminating other patients and staff.

The Tennessee Department of Health has developed a checklist to help someone determine if they are likely to have become infected with COVID-19. Generally, you have to be in close contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19. Close contact can include any of these four ways:

• Living in the same household with someone who is sick with COVID-19;

• Caring for a sick person with COVID-19;

• Being within 6 feet of someone sick with COVID-19 for 10 minutes or longer;

• Being in direct contact with secretions from someone sick with COVID-19 (such as being coughed on, kissing, or sharing utensils).

Responses to these may mean you should self-quarantine yourself. The length of the quarantine is based on the circumstances of the exposure.

In positive cases, the quarantine is a minimum of seven days after onset of symptoms and the patient can be released when the patient has been feeling well for at least 72 hours and is no longer has a fever with no fever-reducing medication.

Someone who has had household contact with someone sick with COVID-19 can expect a longer quarantine. The quarantine must be for 14 days after the COVID-19 patient is feeling well and no longer feverish.

Non-household contacts must also be quarantined for 14 days from last contact.

In addition to the quarantines, the social distance now being practiced is a something Hurt said is intended to “flatten the curve” in the otherwise exponential rise in the number of cases reported in countries that were affected earlier.

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