I’ve been watching the news reports, some accurate, some not so much, around the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. I’ve noticed that some scary-sounding public pronouncements are actually just common-sense actions, and once I read the fine print, it reassures me to know our public officials are taking action.
With diseases like this that can really put older people and people with compromised immune systems at serious risk, I’m thrilled to see people in charge, like our governor, take them seriously.
On March 11, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a “public health emergency” in Louisiana because of COVID-19. Does that mean it’s more dangerous and serious than it was before? Do you need to be MORE worried or concerned than you were yesterday?
In short, the answer is no.
So, what is he declaring, exactly?
The governor’s declaration of a public health emergency is a formal process of creating and amending an existing, important, very technical public health document.
You see, on a day-to-day basis, our state Department of Health maintains a list of different types of diseases and infections that could have a big impact on public health so that when they pop up in a hospital or a doctor’s office, healthcare providers know to report it to the state health department IMMEDIATELY. Usually with a phone call, text or email to the right official immediately. And that’s what’s happening now.
This list of important diseases and infections is called the “Class A List,” and it’s got some really bad stuff on it. Stuff you and I really don’t want running rampant in our community. Stuff like diphtheria, seafood poisoning or the bubonic plague! On a day-to-day basis, healthcare providers around the state know when they run across anything on that list, they have an obligation to notify the Department of Health right away.
What the governor did with this declaration was add some new conditions to the state’s “Class A List,” including COVID-19 and a few other symptoms that can be indicators of COVID-19.
This prudent measure will help ensure that whenever a case, or even something that looks like a case, of COVID-19 pops up anywhere in Louisiana, healthcare providers will have a legal obligation to immediately notify state health officials.
Understanding where these cases are popping up and confirming the diagnosis as quickly as possible is one of the keys to managing this COVID-19 event we are in. So, the Emergency Declaration was more about collecting data faster than anything else. Now you know.
Okay, what should I do?
In the meantime, please make sure you are practicing good discipline in your daily habits. Keep washing and sanitizing your hands often, and especially after using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing and before handling food.
It’s also important to maintain a respectful distance from people in public and avoid crowds if possible. Lots of things are being canceled. I noticed the Southeastern Conference and LSU have canceled all campus-based sporting events through March 30, which, while it might not be popular, is not a bad idea. It’s such a good idea that the NCAA has now canceled the remaining winter and spring championships for men’s and women’s athletics. The state also plans to place restrictions on visits to nursing home and prisons for the next 30 days. It’s smart to take extra steps that keep these groups of people and others who can be very vulnerable to infection safe.
Most importantly, don’t panic. Keep your head on straight and resist the urge to buy every roll of toilet paper you see (what’s THAT about?). Instead, focus on not rubbing your eyes or touching your face too much, especially if you have someone at home who is elderly or immune compromised. These simple things will help us get through the next few weeks and back to normal. You can handle it!
And, get your information about what’s happening from trusted sources, like the Governor’s Office or international, state and federal health agencies.
Check out Blue Cross’s webpage on COVID-19 – www.bcbsla.com/COVID19, the Louisiana Department of Health’s page and the Governor’s webpage for the latest on COVID-19 in Louisiana. Louisiana residents can also get updated information about the COVID-19 outbreak through the statewide 211 network. Just dial 211 or text LACOVID to 898-211 for the most current information.
That’s as Straight as I can make it!