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Preventative measures, calmness urged at COVID-19 forum

By Josh Staloch

ALLOUEZ – For the majority of the population, contracting the coronavirus is in no way a death sentence.

But for the 20 percent of the population which falls into what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed the high-risk category – those with weak immune systems, existing lung problems, heart disease or diabetes – the danger posed by the coronavirus should be taken seriously.

Members of the local health care community, along with Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich, Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach and Green Bay schools superintendent Dr. Michelle Langenfeld held a press conference Monday, March 16, at Bellin Health’s facility in Allouez to go over the county’s readiness level as the possibility of widespread cases in the Green Bay area becomes more likely.

One phrase heard frequently during the presentation was “flattening the curve.”

Health care leaders made many points during the event:

• The coronavirus spreads rapidly and, as it spreads, the curve, or number of those needing medical attention, goes up accordingly.

• The all-at-once scenario, where folks who are going to get the virus get it at the same time, is a nightmare for health care providers.

• It’s avoidable if the general population can be sensible and try to adhere to some common sense guidelines for the time being.

• Social distancing will be a key factor in flattening the curve.

• Stay home as much as possible.

• Try to put some space – at least 3 feet is recommended – between you and anyone around you when you’re out.

• Avoid handshakes or hugs and cover your mouth or put it into the bend of your elbow when you cough.

People practicing these preventative measures will help slow the spread of the coronavirus, flatten the curve, and allow health care organizations the opportunity to be there when the need is greatest, they said.

“No health system is prepared with the amount of beds, staff, equipment and capacity to handle 20 percent of the population having a serious illness,” said Bellin Health President/CEO Chris Woleske. “We’re prepared for a lot of things. We do very well with heart attacks, strokes and many other health care crises, but this is new.”

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

• A consistent temperature of 100.4 degrees or above.

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

• Sometimes a dry cough.

HSHS (St. Vincent Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center) CEO Brian Charlier said if you develop COVID-19 symptoms and are otherwise generally healthy and not in the high risk category, you can recuperate at home with rest and plenty of fluids.

“You should then stay in self-quarantine for 14 days,” said Charlier. “And please, stay away from others while you’re recuperating.”

Langenfeld said the school district plans on ensuring students who rely on meals at school will continue to be fed.

She said learning alternatives are going to be provided during the extended closure, to make sure students are progressing through the school year while at the same time making sure the district is contributing to the area’s overall efforts at social distancing.

“Our feeding program is going to model our summer feeding program, we’ll have the details out (Tuesday),” said Langenfeld. “Our goal is to educate the very best we can. Obviously, our secondary schools, particularly our high schools, are well prepared because they’ve been doing online, distance learning for quite some time now. We’re poised now to offer extended learning opportunities for children as early as our youngest learners.”

Genrich said to remain calm and look out for one another during this upcoming uncertainty by keeping an eye out for a neighbor who might be in need of food or other necessities and by trying to support those whose livelihoods are being affected by this disruption in normalcy.

He said people can still order goods and services from local establishments for delivery or pick up.

“Donate food and other daily necessities to local pantries who are helping those who are out of work,” said Genrich. “And do not hoard supplies. Health care supplies are needed for professionals and for those who are sick. And stop and really think about how much food and other supplies you need to have on hand.”

If you are experiencing prolonged symptoms of the coronavirus and are in the high-risk group, officials advise you to contact your health care provider.

All three local health care systems have testing sites they can direct people to.

At this point, however, they said local health facilities are running low on some of the supplies needed to properly obtain and deliver test samples to labs for testing.

Officials are hopeful the problem will be corrected in the coming weeks as production of the materials ramps up nation wide.

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