North Central Health District

COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENTS

Coronavirus

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What is Coronavirus?

Human coronaviruses are common across the world. First identified in the 1960s, human coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses that can be mild, like a common cold, or severe, like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronaviruses are common in a variety of animal species such as bats and camels. While it is rare for coronaviruses to mutate, becoming zoonotic and infecting, then spreading between humans. Recent examples of these zoonotic viruses are SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

COVID-19: 2019 Novel Coronavirus

A new type of human coronavirus, COVID-19, has been identified in China, but additional cases have been identified in other countries. The first case in the United States was announced on Jan. 21. The Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are coordinating to monitor the outbreak and prevent the spread in the U.S.

COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 testing is conducted at healthcare providers, hospitals, urgent care center, etc. Once there, the physician will get information about symptoms, contacts and other information related to the possible transmission of COVID-19 and consult with a DPH medical epidemiologist about the need for testing.

 

Public health is providing FREE COVID-19 tesing. For screening for testing through North Central Health District, you can contact our COVID-19 testing number 1-844-987-0099. You must call and get a referral for testing at one of our sites. We have sites in every county in our district, with testing offered based on this schedule:

For public health COVID-19 testing outside of our district, please use the following resources:

NCHD Weekly COVID-19 Operations Summary

North Central Health District’s (NCHD) epidemiology program will share weekly COVID-19 Operations Summaries covering our 13-county district with media and the community. Weekly summaries of district activities include information on NCHD specimen point of collection (SPOC) sites, personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution, COVID-19 cases and congregate setting outbreaks.

COVID-19 and Masks

CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public where social distancing may be difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). The use of simple cloth face coverings may help people who may have the virus and do not know it, from transmitting it to others. These cloth face coverings (made from household items like T-shirts, bandanas) can be used as an additional public health measure.  It is important to note that the cloth face coverings recommended by the CDC are NOT surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those items should continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Healthcare providers who suspect COVID-19 infection in a patient should report them immediately to DPH by calling
1-866-PUB-HLTH (1-866-782-4584) and ask for a Medical Epidemiologist.

Methods of Transmission

Human coronaviruses are spread in ways similar to other viruses like the flu or norovirus. Common methods of transmission include:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • close personal contact (shaking hands, touching, etc.)
  • touching a contaminated object or surface, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • handling waste of an infected person (this method is rare)

Coronaviruses are commonly spread during fall and winter, but they are active all year. 

Symptoms & Treatment

Symptoms

COVID-19 can cause mild to severe symptoms and death. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms are similar to a variety of illnesses and include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The virus may lead to lower respiratory tract illnesses like pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in older adults, infants, people with compromised immune systems and people living with chronic conditions. Always contact your healthcare provider if symptoms persist or become more severe.

If you develop any of the following emergency warning signs, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent chest pressure or pain
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

 

Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19, nor are there any specific treatments. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care for the symptoms.

There are no drugs approved to prevent or treat the coronavirus. Be aware that some people may try to sell you a treatment that is unauthorized and not appropriate, and could even be dangerous.

Protection & Prevention

Protect Yourself

There is no vaccine to protect against human coronavirus. You can take steps to protect against the virus:

  • Wash hands often with soap and hot water; wash hands for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid contact with people who are ill.

Protect Others

You can help reduce the risk of human coronavirus transmission. If you have cold-like symptoms:

  • Stay home while you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with other people.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
  • Wash hands regularly.
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects.

Avoid Travel to Active COVID-19 Areas

It is recommended to practice enhanced precautions if you are travelling to active COVID-19 areas, especially for older adults, infants and those with comporomised immune systems.

COVID-19 Handwashing

Basic Information for Schools

As a school administrator, there are steps you can take now to lessen the impact of a severe infectious disease outbreak in your school. It is important to review your health policies and emergency plans to ensure you’re prepared if COVID-19 infections begin to spread in our community.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is developing specific guidance for schools in response to COVID-19. Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that causes symptoms similar to influenza and is thought to be spread in the same way. The following strategies to prepare for a flu pandemic are a good starting point for your COVID-19 planning.

Create a Culture of Health in Your School

  • Always promote healthy hygiene habits. Make sure students and staff have access to warm water and soap or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and trash baskets. *Small children should only use hand sanitizer under adult supervision.
  • Remind parents to keep sick children at home. Students should be symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines before returning to school.
  • Also encourage staff to stay home when they’re sick. The same rules apply – employees should be symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school.
  • Follow your standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting. Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys.

Planning Ahead

  • Plan for staff and student absences. Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies that you can enact in a severe outbreak. Staff may need to stay home when they are sick, caring for a sick household member, or caring for their children in the event of school dismissals.
  • Review your process for planning school events. Identify actions to take if you need to postpone or cancel events, such as sporting and special events.
  • Identify space that can be used to separate sick people if possible. If an employee or student gets sick at school and cannot leave immediately, designate a separate area just for sick people if possible.
  • Consider how you will handle school dismissals if public health recommends temporary school closures to lessen the spread of illness.
  • Colleges and universities should also identify strategies to continue essential student services like meals, health, and social services. These plans should address students who are not able to return home, like international and out-of-state students.

Discourage Stigma & Discrimination

It’s also important to be mindful of the language you use and the policies you enact, ensuring you do not inadvertently promote stigma and discrimination. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed coronavirus infection.

CDC Interim Guidance for Schools

Basic Information for Businesses

As an employer, there are steps you can take now to lessen the impact of an infectious disease outbreak on your workforce while ensuring your business operations can continue.

One of the most important things you can do is also one of the simplest: remind your staff that all sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace. Additionally, encourage employees to wash hands frequently, and ensure commonly touched surfaces are cleaned regularly.

The CDC recommends several strategies business should implement now, before COVID-19 infections begin spreading through our community.

Employees & Illness; Sick Leave

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees should be symptom-free and fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines before returning to work.
  • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
  • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.

Encourage Healthy Behaviors

  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.

Discourage Stigma & Discrimination

It’s also important to be mindful of the language you use and the policies you enact, ensuring you do not inadvertently promote stigma and discrimination in the workplace. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed coronavirus infection.

 CDC Guidance for Businesses

Public Health Response

North Central Health District is actively monitoring the COVID-19 activity and preparing to respond should the virus begin spreading in our area. Public health experts around the state and across the country are working hard to develop plans and messaging to lessen the impact of COVID-19. One of our roles at the North CentralHealth District is to be a channel for information, passing those plans and messages to our partners so they can also prepare. 

Local activities include:

Reviewing our plan: Our district has a pandemic influenza plan that can serve as a template for responding to other outbreaks of severe respiratory disease, like COVID-19. We are reviewing our plan and are also prepared to implement specific COVID-19 guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC as the situation evolves.

Listening to the experts: Our staff receive frequent updates from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health. These updates include information on the current situation abroad and in the U.S., testing, surveillance, quarantine, and more. Our district administrators, epidemiologists, and emergency preparedness staff receive regular briefings from federal and state experts to help shape our local response.

Communicating with our partners and community: NCHD regularly communicates with our regional healthcare coalition which includes providers and hospitals, sharing resources and guidance from the CDC related to COVID-19 and patient care. We also communicate with our county Boards of Health and other partners who may contact us for guidance. We are also sharing communication material with area schools and businesses as they begin to prepare as well.

COVID-19 FAQs

NCHD Press Releases

Guidance Documents:

Food & Drug Administration

Learn about our related health services:

Free COVID-19 Testing Through Public Health. Call 1-844-987-0099 For Appointments.Read More