PORTSMOUTH — As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Scioto County and the City of Portsmouth, members of the Portsmouth Health Department are doing everything they can to stop the spread and keep the community safe.
“Once we receive a positive test the health department steps in immediately,” Interim Portsmouth City Health Department Director, Belinda Leslie said. “It is a process that I’m not sure many people know.”
Leslie shared that once the department gets confirmation of a positive test, they send the results to the epidemiologist. That information is shared with the county and city health departments. Tests can come from SOMC or KDMC and if it is a county person the epidemiologist will inform the Director of Nursing for the county.
“The director of nursing will make that contact at the county level. If it is a city person, Molly (Portsmouth’s director of nursing) will make contact and inform that person that they have tested positive, and they need to quarantine at home,” Leslie said.
Once a positive person is identified, the health department will start the rigorous process of contact tracing. As they are tracing, the director of nursing for the city health department will draw up quarantine orders for the positive patient and members of the household that have been living with the patient.
“A quarantine order is an order from the County Health Commissioner saying they have to stay at home for 14 days,” Leslie explained. “Everyone in that household will be under quarantine unless they are a first responder and not showing any symptoms of the virus.”
Leslie said first responders who do not show signs of the virus are exempt due to their jobs and ability to protect and serve the community. Generally, those who do show symptoms would be required to stay home, just like any other patient with the virus.
“We can’t have all of our police, fire or, health care workers, not at work,” Leslie said.
Once the order is in place, and the family and patient have been notified, the health department will look deeper into contact tracing. Positive patients will be asked to supply a list of names and phone numbers for other people they have been in contact with.
“People think if they have been exposed, they should go get a test,” Leslie said. “We are telling people to wait five to seven days before getting a test because testing too early can lead to a false negative. We are not discouraging testing, just to wait five days to make sure the test is accurate.”
Leslie stressed that the primary people they were tracing were those who had been in proximity (closer than 6 feet) to the patient and with them for more than 15 minutes.
“So, persons passing in a hallway or something like that are not considered a contact,” Leslie said. “A lot of people think if I was at a restaurant and the rumor mill says there was a positive person there, then I feel like I was exposed. That’s not the case.”
Leslie shared that throughout the quarantine order, patients and their household are monitored daily by the health department. Members of the positive patient household are asked to take their temperature twice a day and monitor their symptoms. At a prearranged time, each day a nurse will contact the family asking for their temperature results and if their health is declining.
“We stay in constant daily contact with them for two weeks,” Leslie said. “We ask them if they have any needs such as medical attention, or food, whatever they may need.”
After the 14 days are finished and the patients and household have not had a temperature in three days without taking medication, the director of nursing will make an in person visit to the location of the patients. During that time the nurse will perform a physical examination and make sure each person is cleared. Individuals will then receive paperwork to return to life and work as normal.
“She will give them a release letter that will have verbiage in there allowing them to go back to work,” Leslie said. “So, it’s not like just 14 days and I’m free to go. We have to lay eyes on them to make sure they are clear.”
While cases continue to rise, Leslie wants to remind the community the best things they can do to help stop the spread of the virus are to wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing and wear a face mask. On Thursday Scioto County was moved from a level two emergency to a level three, requiring all residents to wear face coverings when out in public.
“I know everyone hates it, but wearing the mask is important,” Leslie said.
On Friday, the Scioto County and Portsmouth City Health Departments reported three new positive COVID-19 cases for Scioto County. The new cases bring the total for the county to 91 since the beginning of the outbreak.
The health departments also reported that three more persons who had previously tested positive for the virus or had been put into quarantine have recovered or completed their isolation protocol. The total of persons recovered now stands at 45.
One more hospitalization was reported Friday bringing the total to 13 people who have been hospitalized since April 6, 2020.
Reach Adam Black at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1927, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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