Residents told to notify health care professionals before seeking treatment for symptoms

As reports of canceling or postponing large sporting events, concerts and lengthy closures of colleges, some public school systems and large cooperations offering work from home status, Chillicothe area residents, businesses and schools also began preparing for a possible case of COVID-19.

Livingston County Health Department Director Sherry Weldon, said Thursday, that no one in Livingston County has been tested for COVID-19.

“That doesn’t mean it will not change quickly, but we have no confirmed or even suspected cases in our county,” she said.

On March 8 the Missouri Veterans Commission issued a statement saying the group was closing all seven of the state’s veterans homes to outside visitors, volunteers and the general public.

Several local nursing homes reported enhanced procedures in previous weeks to protect the safety and health of residents. This week facilities have limited visiting hours and begun screening anyone entering the facility.

“For the last three weeks, visitors to the facility have been asked not to visit if they were not feeling well or had been out of the country,” Joan Sweets, administrator of Morningside Center said. On Thursday, the center instituted restricted visiting hours and began checking visitor’s temperatures and having them fill out a brief questionnaire.

Livingston Manor Administrator Shelly Allred said that on Monday her facility began taking temperatures of anyone coming in the facility and also asking them about any respiratory symptoms they may have had, or any travel in the last 14 days.

“We are closely following the procedures from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” she said.

Sweets noted the restricted hours for visits to Morningside are as follows: Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Each person will need to stop at the business office to fill out a brief questionnaire and to have their temperature taken.

“Weekend visiting is prohibited. Morningside Center has notified residents, their families and

responsible parties of the visiting restrictions which will be in effect for 21 days and then the situation will be reassessed,” Sweets said. “The facility does have in place plans for critical circumstances that would allow for visiting and those circumstances will be based on individual situations.”

Chillicothe R-II School Superintendent Dan Wiebers said Thursday he and other area superintendents held a meeting where they discussed planning and responses to an outbreak of the virus at area schools, he also planned to meet with the district’s administration team Friday morning to discuss and plan for any actions they made need to take in response to the virus.

Wiebers also noted that despite the increase in cases of influenza this flu season, the schools had a 94.5 percent attendance rate on Thursday.

“Those are very good attendance numbers, especially for this time of year,” he said.

All options are being discussed through various government and state-wide agencies, Wiebers said.

“Any and everything is up for discussion — all things need to be discussed — we are focused on the health and well being of our students and staff and will continue to work with the health departments and other agencies, following their advice and guidance to ensure we are doing all we can to protect everyone,” he said.

Wiebers encouraged parents and community members to pay attention to their student’s school and district communications, including the website, text alerts and Facebook pages for the most up-to-date information.

According to a press release from Kristi Harris, Chief of staff at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, in-person classes there are suspended March 23-April 3. 

"After spring break, March 16-20, all in-person classes held on NCMC campuses beginning March 23, 2020, will be moved to an alternative online instructional approach to limit possible exposure to our constituents as a result of spring break travel. Students taking in-person courses will continue their work through Blackboard online learning, email, and other virtual communication tools through April 3. During this time, campuses will remain open, and all faculty and staff will observe their usual work schedules. The Ketcham Community Center will remain open to the public. NCMC will continuously monitor our control efforts and evaluate whether to continue alternative instructional methods," she said. 

Like other parts of the country, Chillicothe stores and shoppers have seen empty shelves that are usually stocked full of some basic supplies including hand sanitizers, certain cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper.

Tony Clark, the owner of the Sliced Bread Market, said the mass buying of certain products due to the fear of long-term quarantines is causing a much higher than usual demand.

“It’s affecting some supply issues and uncertainty from the public on how to act - has affected toilet paper, sanitation wipes, it is interesting how the public is reacting.”

Clark did add that there should not be a supply issue with toilet paper, given that 90 percent of the toilet paper is made in the united states.

“Less than 10 percent is actually imported in the U.S. and the rest comes out of Canada and Mexico. There shouldn’t be a supply issue. Fear is forcing a supply issue.”

Shelves in other area retailers were also empty or near-empty for certain supplies.

Several local restaurants are also taking additional steps to ensure the health and safety of their patrons. On Wednesday, HyVee closed down the self-serve salad bar. Friday, the store only had plasticware available for customers, instead of the usual silverware.

Wanona Aronson, manager at Murray’s Buffet and Grill, said they are changing sanitizing water every 20 minutes, more frequently wiping down counters and machines in common areas, switching utensils out on the service line and also removing and rewashing clean silverware from the buffet lines to do their best to help protect their customers.

On Thursday, a second case was confirmed in Missouri, one now each on St. Louis County and Greene County, by Springfield. Reports stated several other Missouri residents were being tested, but results were not yet made public on Friday morning.

Weldon said, the health department has had several calls and residents stop by asking to buy face masks, however, the department has none, and Weldon suggests that only people who are ill with influenza or have a confirmed case of the virus wear a mask.

She noted there have not been many calls about people seeking advice or guidance on how to try and prevent contracting the virus.

Weldon did offer additional tips, including, washing hands every time you return home from being out or arrive someplace new, along with usual best practices for hand washing.

“If you leave work and go out for lunch, wash your hands when you get back to work,” she said. “You go to the grocery store, wash your hands again when you get back home, first thing.”

She added to be sure to wipe off phones, light switches, remotes and even steering wheels to help prevent spreading germs.

Avoiding large crowds of people will also help a person not be exposed to any illness, not just COVID-19.

Most importantly, Weldon said, anyone who thinks they have symptoms, which include fever, shortness of breath and sore throat to not panic.

“If you think you have symptoms, be sure to call your doctor’s office before you do anything. Tell them your symptoms and they will guide you on the next steps to take,” she said. “Do not just show up at a doctor’s office or the emergency department, they need to know you are coming. Call your doctor first and they will direct you where to go and help make sure preparations are underway to limit exposure to others.”

If you are unable to see your physician or develop unmanageable symptoms during closed clinic hours, be sure to call the emergency department to let them know of your symptoms and that you are planning to seek care in their facility.

Weldon noted symptoms are usually manageable in patients with no underlying medical concerns, however, shortness of breath and high fevers are concerning and anyone with those symptoms should be sure to seek treatment.

Officials at Hedrick Medical Center encourage the public to pay attention to alerts from the Livingston County Health Department and also at this link, provided by St. Luke’s about the coronavirus, https://www.saintlukeskc.org/about/news/covid-19-coronavirus-what-you-need-know, and HMC’s Facebook page which will also have the most up-to-date information.