As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to spread this week, officials in Grayson County increased their efforts to protect the public's health.

At press time on Friday, Grayson County had no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, though Kentucky has seen a number of confirmed positive cases.

In a post on its Facebook page Thursday, the Grayson County Health Department encouraged the community to move toward preparedness while maintaining calm behavior.

The health department also shared some of the measures it has implemented to address the coronavirus, including weekly meetings with local government, school, and healthcare officials to ensure community wellness, as well as a creating a live news feed on its website that shares the most recent information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a special page on its website dedicated to ending harmful rumors that would cause community panic. 

The health department's website can be viewed at graysonhealthcenter.org. 

Additionally, Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center, which announced this week it would be implementing visitor restrictions - no visitors under age 16, only immediate family may visit patients, and no visitors with respiratory symptoms - issued a press release with tips on how the community can best protect itself from COVID-19.

The release states that Grayson County is currently considered a low-risk area for the coronavirus, but TLRMC is "prepared should an outbreak occur."

Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent the coronavirus, and the CDC recommends wearing a face mask only if you are sick and will be around others or if you are providing care to a sick person.

"The best way to prevent any illness is to avoid exposure," the TLRMC release states.

The local hospital recommends the following intervention strategies to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Personal Prevention Measures:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick with fever, coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. To avoid close contact, stay at least 6 feet away from others.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. To avoid coughing into your hands, you can cough into your elbow.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipes.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water 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 not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

People at Higher Risk for Coronavirus Complications:

Adults over 60 and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. If you are at increased risk for COVID-19, it is especially important for you to take the following actions to reduce your risk of exposure:

• Stay at home as much as possible.

• Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods over time.

• When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact (6 feet away) and wash your hands often.

• Avoid crowds.

Hospital officials say that some of the most common symptoms of coronavirus are many of the same symptoms of the common cold or flu – fever, cough, and shortness of breath, so it could be difficult to determine at what point to seek medical care.

As concern around the outbreak grows, review these recommendations from the CDC if you suspect you may be infected:

• Monitor your symptoms. Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g. difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19. Put on a face mask before you enter the facility (your doctor’s office may be able to provide one to you). These steps will help the health care provider’s office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed. Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health department. Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.

• Call 911. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before emergency medical services arrive.

As the situation concerning COVID-19 continued to evolve throughout the week, a number of other public agencies announced they would be taking preventative measures. 

Grayson County Jailer Jason Woosley on Thursday announced that he would be taking proactive steps to address the situation, despite no cases of the illness being identified locally or in the Grayson County Detention Center.

Among those steps will be the temporary suspension of the jail's community work program, effective at close of business on Friday, and the monitoring of all employees and inmates for symptoms of respiratory infection.  

The Grayson County Alliance on Thursday afternoon also announced it would be implementing procedure changes, as well. 

Grayson County Alliance Executive Director Debbie Childress said that, until further notice, the Alliance Food Pantry will operate on drive-thru only at 2203 Brandenburg Rd. Additionally, the Alliance has canceled its March classes, and the VITA tax site will be closed Monday, March 16. 

On Thursday night, Grayson County Judge Executive Kevin Henderson issued the following statement on his Facebook page regarding the coronavirus:

Grayson County local government, schools officials, and healthcare providers have met over the past couple of weeks discussing the coronavirus and the impact that it could have on our community.

I don’t like my life disrupted just as much as the next person, but the most important thing to remember is do not panic!

Public officials have a difficult decision to make regarding canceling sporting events, school, social gatherings, etc. However, if it saves just one individual’s life, I am certainly okay with it!

If that person was one of your loved ones, I’m sure you would be, too.

If we follow guidelines, we can protect our more at-risk populations and get everyone’s life back to normal. Social media has the ability to spread that message, if people will listen. You can start by simply washing your hands. If you do not have access to warm water and soap, utilize hand sanitizer. You can also practice social distancing and avoiding large groups of people.

You can help protect the more vulnerable populations and increase better health outcomes for everyone by following precautions and protocols. Please be mindful of others before you rush to the store and grab the entire canned food section or every gallon of milk. Panic is certainly our worst enemy right now. Try to think rationally and act proportionally. Some individuals are not in a position to get what they need right now, not considering what they might need if they have to self-quarantine for a while. Just remember we will get through this just like we have in the past!

Thanks, and God Bless!

Individuals may also stay up to date on the coronavirus issue by visiting the state website kycovid19.ky.gov.

A 24-hour hotline has also been established by the state to field concerns from citizens. It can be reached by calling 1-800-722-5725.