Test kit availability, supply hoarding and recommendations for self-quarantine were all topics among a Monday night discussion between Paris city, education and health care officials at Paris City Hall.
“My purpose for calling this meeting is to reassure the public,” Paris Mayor Steve Clifford said. “There are things going on I have never seen in my lifetime, but it’s not because it is something horrible. We are doing this so people will be fine and can get on with their lives in a few months.”
Amid rapidly changing national and state recommendations, officials honed in on the current and expected conditions in Paris and Lamar County.
To date there have been no confirmed cases locally, however, health care officials are awaiting the results of a single test, which could take several days, according to Paris Regional Medical Center CEO Steve Hyde.
Topics at the hour-long public discussion ranged from social distancing to symptoms to self-quarantines and testing to hoarding and to what people should do if they become ill.
The recommendation for social gatherings has now dropped from 50 people to 10 in a group setting, an effort to thwart the rapid spread of the virus. COVID-19 is not serious for the majority of people but can prove deadly for the elderly and those with respiratory conditions.
“We don’t want a spike in cases where we don’t have enough providers or enough ventilators to care for people who become extremely ill,” said Dr. Amanda Green, a Paris/Lamar County Health District board member. “We want to smooth it (the number of cases) over a few months. Most of us are going to be fine, but for the few who are going to get really, really sick we want to protect them.”
What should people do if they become ill with flu-like symptoms, Clifford asked the professionals.
“Stay home if you are not that sick,” Green said. “If you are short of breath, call your doctor, and if you are very short of breath, call EMS to come to the hospital.”
Contact your family physician or the Paris/Lamar County Health Clinic, but do not just show up at a clinic, epidemiologist Mark Lueke with the health department responded.
Physicians will assess individual situations, and if needed, will make arrangements for patients to come into the office in a manner not to expose others, Lueke said. Testing for the virus, only through the health department, will take place if a patient is showing specific symptoms as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Green said the community currently has 90 test swabs available, which need to be reserved for patients and health care professionals with symptoms.
“Patients should not come to the hospital for testing because we can not do it,” Hyde interjected. “All testing must be approved through physicians and the health department.”
Dr. Lav Singh, an internal medicine physician specializing in infectious diseases, agreed most people will suffer flu-like symptoms and will be fine.
“But anyone older we have to take it very, very seriously,” Singh said, explaining those over 50 years of age with a persistent fever and respiratory distress should call their physician or go to the emergency room.
Green added anyone who sees a rapid progression in symptoms is at risk and should seek help. Those with mild or moderate symptoms should self-quarantine for a minimum 14 days.
When Clifford asked what a self-quarantine looks like for people who think they may have the virus, Lueke said a patient needs to stay in their room, family members should use protective equipment and minimize airborne contact by leaving meals at the door. Also, a plastic bag should be used to collect clothing, etc., and then wash items and dry with the drier on high heat for at least 30 minutes.
To a question about the hoarding of food and other things including toilet paper and disinfectants, Hyde said there is no shortage, just the inability of stores to keep shelves stocked.
“People just need to calm down and quit hoarding things,” he said.
School officials shared ways districts are handling student needs while schools are closed, and they said county administrators will meet today to determine if closure will continue. Paris Junior College President Pam Anglin said the college will begin online instruction for all classes Monday, has closed student services including meal service and has vacated residence halls with the exception of eight students.
Department heads with the Paris Emergency Medical Services, the Paris Police Department and with Lamar County Emergency Management shared procedures as did physicians from stand-alone medical emergency centers.
Dr. Davis Salas, with Salas Minor Emergency Center, put the current situation in perspective.
“More people have died of an opioid overdose in the last six hours than have died in this country of COVID-19 in the last three weeks,” Salas said. “We have not hit the tidal wave, and hopefully, if we are successful in our efforts, we will never hit the tidal wave.”