|No cases here, but coronavirus is closing in|
By Bill Richardson
LAWRENCEVILLE - As of Tuesday morning there were still no confirmed coronavirus cases in Lawrence County, but it has been found right next door.
Over the weekend, one case was confirmed in neighboring Crawford County to the north, while a pair of cases were reported in Knox County, Indiana, directly to the east.
"It tells me that it's coming to our community," said Amy Marley, administrator at the Lawrence County Health Department. "Our awareness needs to be heightened. A lot of our people work in those neighboring counties where we've seen the confirmed cases."
Should someone within the county contract the virus, Marley would immediately notify the public. Because of strict criteria, she acknowledged once again that as of Tuesday morning, fewer than 10 tests had been administered through the Lawrence County Health Department. The results of three of those tests were pending, she said, and were expected to be in by Tuesday evening.
Marley noted that the health department, despite not conducting tests, has recommended that a number of Lawrence Countians quarantine themselves due to having symptoms. Due to privacy issues, she could not release the exact number who were affected.
On Sunday the Crawford County Health Department confirmed that a man in his 70s has tested positive for COVID-19. In Knox County, health officer Dr. Alan Stewart confirmed two cases. None of the victims were being hospitalized, according to published reports. All have been ordered to self-quarantine in their homes.
According to the Robinson Daily News, the Crawford County victim is thought to have been exposed to the virus on a recent trip to Arizona. The Illinois Department of Public Health, Crawford Memorial Hospital, the health department and the individual had all been notified and were monitoring the situation. Additionally, the health department was investigating who may have been in close contact with the Crawford County patient before he was diagnosed.
Of more concern in Knox County is a report that an employee at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, who is a resident of another Indiana County, had tested positive. That employee, according to hospital officials, did not come into direct contact with patients. However, the health department identified five other GSH employees who worked directly with the infected person. All six were contacted by the Knox County Health Department and have been quarantined in their homes. They were reportedly asymptomatic, according to a GSH official.
A big concern, according to Marley, is that some retirees are returning to Lawrence County after wintering in warmer locales that might be a coronavirus "hot spot."
"A lot of them are coming home after spending time in areas where the rates are high," she said. "It really would be in their best interests if they would self-quarantine themselves upon returning to this county. They need to be aware of the situation and limit their visitors until they're sure they don't have any of the symptoms."
Marley stressed that if someone thinks they have the coronavirus, they should not go to the emergency room at Lawrence County Memorial Hospital, or to the health department. The first thing they should do, she said, is call their medical provider.
"We are able to do some screening over the phone," she said. "They need to make that phone call first, before showing up at the ER, a doctor's office or the health department."
Adhering to the state order to stay at home, Marley said, is vital. She adds that when someone is doing necessary shopping, etc., they should do so alone and leave the rest of their family at home.
"That's how we're going to get ahead of this thing," she said. "People definitely need to adhere to that order."
As of Tuesday morning, Crawford, Clark and Cumberland counties, to the north of Lawrence County, were reporting one confirmed case each. There were no reported cases in neighboring Wabash, Richland or Edwards counties. Positive cases were being reported in 52 of the 102 counties in Illinois.
The Lawrence County Health Department has established a 24-hour hotline for anyone who has questions. A health department official can be reached by dialing 812-213-0199. Those who have questions can also email email@example.com. The email address is being monitored around the clock, according to health department officials.