A family member of three students in the Lincoln County R-III School District has been tested for COVID-19. Those test results have not yet been received, a statement from the school district said, but the family has taken precautions and has self-isolated. The students in the family attend Troy South Middle and Troy Buchanan High School.
The Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD) and the school district will continue to work closely together, and if the case is positive, the release states the LCHD will collaborate with the district to identify and notify any potential contacts that will need to self-isolate.
Sara Valenza, public information officer with the LCHD, said LCHD staff are meeting daily on the situation and are holding weekly calls with local partners like the school districts to answer questions and keep everyone in the loop.
Valenza said the LCHD is also receiving reports on incoming travelers from countries designated as hotspots for COVID-19, in case they need to be monitored.
In Lincoln County, Valenza said most citizen inquires so far have been based around safety and prevention.
“Washing your hands, making sure your employees are washing their hands, encouraging people to stay home when they’re sick, making sure businesses and others are disinfecting their offices regularly and really just things like that,” Valenza said.
Lincoln County R-III School District Community Relations Specialist Audrey Henebry said that, as with any flu season, increased disinfection protocols remain in place, and that the district’s administrators are keeping close ties to the LCHD.
“Our Facilities Department uses a broadcast disinfectant that is known to be virucidal and effective in killing most viruses,” Henebry said. “Custodians are wiping down surfaces such as tables, doorknobs and drinking fountains on a regular basis. We have recently added more disinfection protocols for school buses as well. LCR3 is also taking this opportunity to remind students and staff about good hand hygiene and to cover coughs and sneezes with their elbow. Students are being given opportunities to wash their hands during the school day, especially before snacks and meals. In locations where access to soap and water is limited, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also available.”
The county’s Emergency Management Agency has also set up an Emergency Operations Center, at the request of the LCHD, which is intended to support planning, preparations and any necessary responses to the COVID-19 virus.
“At this point we are primarily a support function for the LCHD,” Emergency Management Director Jim Sharp said. “We had the county’s Emergency Operations Center activated, and that really doesn’t commit us to a course of action, but it tends to formalize certain processes that just kind of make things easier should the LCHD need to expand their operations or should we need to bring more folks to the table, it’s a structure that lets that happen a little more cohesively than it would just bits and pieces at a time.”
It’s hard to gauge when or if there will be a definitive case of coronavirus in Lincoln County, but Valenza said the infrastructure is in place to handle it should it happen.
“We do expect additional cases in Missouri, and we are ready for that, but it’s really hard to gauge what exactly that will look like,” Valenza said. The LCHD’s page on the virus, lchdmo.org/covid19, is constantly updated, and Valenza said it will be used to inform the community on any new developments.
Currently there’s no good comparison of infection rates to other diseases, as the coronavirus is still relatively fresh into its cycle.
Genevieve Weseman, emergency planner and surveillance specialist at the LCHD, said the rates wont stabilize until much further into the incident.
“[Right] now, anything would just be a best-guess,” Weseman said. “We do know that we have, nationally, many, many people dying from influenza every year, but we do also want to take the potential threat of the novel coronavirus just as seriously and make sure that we’re really driving home those points to the population about washing your hands, stay home if you’re sick and reaching out for that information online through our website or the CDC.”
Vulnerable populations for coronavirus include older individuals of age 60 or older and people with underlying health conditions.
Updates on the situation for the Lincoln County R-III School District are available at www.troy.k12.mo.us/Page/8725.
There are a number of local and state-wide resources available regarding the coronavirus.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) activated a statewide public hotline for citizens or providers needing guidance regarding the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The hotline can be reached at 877-435-8411, and will be operated by medical professionals and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Communication is vital to our response to this rapidly-evolving situation,” said DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams in a release. “For several weeks, our COVID-19 webpage has been and continues to be a great resource for the public, but having the hotline as an additional resource will likely be invaluable as citizens seek guidance for their concerns.”
In St. Louis County, as of March 12, there were nine negative results, three pending test result and the original confirmed case (reported on 3/7/2020). St. Charles County had reported seven tests and five negative results, with two more tests pending. On March 12, another presumptive positive result was announced for a Springfield, Missouri man.