The spread of COVID-19, a coronavirus causing a global pandemic, has also led to an “infodemic,” according to the head of the World Health Organization. In an effort to answer questions and inform readers, we spoke to Moab Regional Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dylan Cole to answer questions from the community.
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: “Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath and reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease, identified only recently, is still being researched and understanding of the death rate and other aspects of the disease is still evolving.”
Q: Is COVID-19 already in our community?
A: “Most health professionals feel that the likelihood it’s already here is high. If you have respiratory symptoms, the safest course of action is to assume that you may be affected and to make reasonable efforts to distance yourself. Even in your own home, try to distance yourself from family members as much as possible. If we wait until we see proof of community spread, then these social distancing steps are no longer effective. We’ve seen that historically in other viral epidemics.”
Q: How many people have been tested for COVID-19 in Moab?
A: “As of March 19, we’ve sent 13 to 15 tests out since March 1. We’ve had far more people request a test, but that low number is because we’re following strict CDC guidelines that limit who can be tested. These limitations are due to limits on testing and shortages of tests. For now, because of the testing limits we continue to recommend that people concerned that they have COVID-19 call our hotline at 435-719-3998 but stay home unless they think they’re in serious distress.”
Q: When should I reach out for medical assistance?
A: “Certainly, if you or a family member have difficulty breathing, have a rapid respiratory rate, show confusion or lethargy or otherwise are unable to control a fever or your hydration. Treat your cough and fever if it’s mild: if it gets worse call us.”
Q: Will people be able to get tested in the future?
A: “We’re hopeful. There are multiple private companies that are licensed to run tests but as of now, those tests would still take multiple days. We’re really looking for same-day tests. Then we’ll increase the number of tests available.”
Q: I’m worried about getting exposed at grocery stores, but my partner says it’s no big deal. Am I crazy?
A: “I recommend that people in our community continue to support our local grocery stores and buy in reasonable quantities, as there is no sign that there will be shortages. For people that can manage to, I would recommend using call in or curbside services with our grocers. I would commend these grocery workers, they are unsung heroes who continue to come to work and put themselves in harms way while also putting strict hygiene processes in place. Once you’ve got your groceries, I think it’s reasonable to wipe your purchases off with some sanitizer before you bring things in.”
Q: Moab’s a tourist town with no tourists right now. How can we continue to support our local businesses during this difficult time?
A: “Many local restaurants and businesses are offering call-in and pickup options. I’m encouraged by this generosity and the creativity of our community members, many of whom have offered their skills, services and supplies directly to the hospital.”
Q: With shortages of hand sanitizer and other items, how can I keep my home hygienic?
A: “The CDC has guidelines for making homemade bleach solutions to sterilize things, which is a great way to wipe things down without using wipes or other disposable items [Available at www.cdc.gov/disasters/bleach.html - ed.]. One lucky thing we’re learning about COVID-19 is that, while studies show it may still linger on surfaces for quite a while, the virus is not very durable and can be destroyed by bleach and sanitizers.”
Q: Where can I find accurate, up-to-date information on the virus?
A: “Johns Hopkins University is doing a daily tracker and is a good resource to see numbers and recommendations. We’re following CDC guidance ourselves and that’s a great place to look. The Utah Department of Health has daily briefings that are shown live on Facebook for news about our state’s response.
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