MOROCCO — The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, emerged in China in late 2019, and has now spread to various countries worldwide, including the U.S., some with sustained community spread. There has been a lot of media attention paid to this virus, and so the health department wanted to send out some information about it, as well as ways that those in our community can help to reduce spread if/when that may occur.

There is currently two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indiana (Indianapolis area, and Hendricks County), but there are no suspected cases in Newton County. The risk of contracting this virus in the community remains low at this time. The health department and the emergency management agency are monitoring the situation and are receiving guidance from the State Department of Health as well as the CDC that we will utilize as needed. We also have public health emergency plans in place that we can activate if warranted.

That being said, there are things that Newton County residents can do now to prepare and help limit community spread of COVID-19. Note that many of these are things that you may already be doing to help limit the spread of flu or other common wintertime illnesses.

1. If you or a family member is sick, stay home. This is especially important with those that have a severe upper respiratory illness or fever greater than 100.4 F. Febrile persons should stay at home until fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

2. Employers or schools that have an employee/student that becomes sick at work/school should separate that person from the rest of the people at that facility and send them home immediately.

3. COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets (from coughing or sneezing), touching surfaces contaminated with droplets, and close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands. Therefore, it is best to follow hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Sneeze/cough into your sleeve or in a tissue and then dispose of it and wash your hands. Do not touch your face unless hands are clean. Hands should be washed with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially if hands are visibly dirty. Note that persons that handle money or other high-traffic items should clean their hands every time after doing so. Clean hands frequently between soap and water washings with alcohol –based hand sanitizer. Please note that most commonly-seen face masks are NOT effective in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, as viral particles are small enough to pass through them. N95 respirators can be effective, but are uncomfortable to wear, should be fitted to the wearer, and are only being used by healthcare providers. The CDC does not recommend the use of masks in the general public at this time.

4. At work, school, and home, perform routine basic cleaning, especially in high-traffic areas where public interaction takes place. Wipe down countertops and work areas, as well as doorknobs, light switches, keyboards, devices, etc. at least daily if possible. Cleaning products that work well on COVID-19 that are readily available are Clorox disinfecting wipes, Lysol Clean and Fresh multi-surface cleaner, Lysol disinfectant spray, and Purell disinfectant wipes. Note that surface cleaners using benzalkonium chloride as the main active ingredient are reportedly not as effective as cleaners using bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol to inactivate COVID-19.

5. It may be prudent for businesses to discuss within their facilities how they might continue to provide services with high employee absenteeism (i.e. cross-training if possible), work-from-home options, etc.

6. If you do experience symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and have had a recent travel history to areas where COVID-19 has sustained community spread, contact your physician or emergency department PRIOR to arrival at the facility so that your case can be handled appropriately.

The health department will continue to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 and will maintain communications and guidance between public health, emergency management, and county officials if/when the virus makes an appearance within our local community. This is a rapidly-evolving situation, and much public misinformation about it exists. For the most accurate information regarding COVID-19, please consult the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) and the Indiana State Department of Health website (www.isdh.in.gov.)