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Hamilton County health officials update, explain local COVID-19 preparations

Posted at 12:59 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 20:18:48-05

CINCINNATI — Hamilton County Public Health officials addressed County Commissioners on local COVID-19 preparations during Tuesday afternoon's Commission staff meeting.

Health officials gave advice on how to react to COVID-19 and how to stay prepared, in case the virus ever makes its way to the Tri-State. At this point, there haven't been any confirmed cases anywhere in the states of Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health had tested seven people in the state for the virus, and one person is still considered under investigation.

The Public Health officials also said, when it comes down to it, residents should choose hand sanitizer and soap over face masks, and closely monitor county, state and CDC recommendations going forward.

The issues and facts surrounding COVID-19 change so regularly, the health officials said they needed to update their slides regularly just for the presentation for commissioners Tuesday afternoon.

"We want people to wash their hands," said Greg Kesterman, interim health commissioner with Hamilton County Public Health. "Keep their hands off their face and mouth, and cover their cough, and, lastly, keep sick at home."

Watch the full presentation below:

He said more people here in the Tri-State area are more likely to get the flu than to contract the COVID-19 strain of Coronavirus. Risk for COVID-19 is still low. The state of Ohio will be launching a statewide call center on Friday for residents with concerns, questions or in need of advice on how to prepare or even how worried they should be.

Local health departments have a plan to test and quarantine anyone if needed, and Kesterman recommends residents have a worst-case plan, too, just in case.

"People should have a way to feed their family if they were self-isolating for 14 days, and they need to make sure they have a backup for child care if they can't send their children to school or to daycare," said Kesterman.

If a case of COVID-19 makes its way into Hamilton County or the Greater Cincinnati area, health officials have a plan for that, too. Hamilton County already has a process in place for collecting nasal swabs, blood and phlegm from any person under investigation for COVID-19. These samples are then tested and flown to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while the person involved spends 14 days in quarantine.

However, health officials stressed that there's no need to panic yet. Hygiene and keeping those who are sick home as much as possible are key to reducing risks. They stressed that hoarding masks will not help most people, and that hand washing and sanitizer are far more effective for combating the spread of the virus.