The Cabell-Huntington Health Department says local residents aren’t doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If the public doesn’t comply, steps will be taken, the health department says.
That was the message issued Thursday evening in response to increased spread of the disease since the beginning of the month.
“This disease will shut us down,” Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director for the health department, said Friday. “If the government doesn’t shut us down — and I’m not saying the government should, but when the disease is out of control and too many are sick and there aren’t enough people to take care of them — we will see here what has been seen in other parts of the country, and we are moving in that direction. It’s time for us to realize we need to be a little more drastic in the actions we take.”
Here is what Kilkenny recommends: People at high risk for severe COVID-19 should stay home. Family members of people at high risk should restrict outside contact as much as possible while maintaining physical and emotional family support. Family gatherings should be reduced to necessary contact. Consider limiting travel to necessary travel only.
That sounds a lot like the shutdown that was imposed in March. People lost jobs, and they gave up contact with family members. That will be a hard sell the second time around.
Kilkenny said much of the disease’s spread comes from family gatherings, and the spread in the community is what is causing outbreaks in the community’s hospitals and nursing homes. He said the situations at Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital or nursing homes cannot be separated from what is happening in the community.
“At low incidence rates and low case counts, we can manage the situation with the three W’s: wash your hands, wear a mask and watch your distance. Our public has been pretty good about that,” Kilkenny told The Herald-Dispatch reporter Taylor Stuck. “But as case counts begin to rise, we see the impact that has on our businesses. Where, and this is important for people to realize … for every case we have, we have on average 8-10 quarantines.”
That assumes people who are advised to quarantine actually do so.
Then we get into the contradictory nature of all this. Playing football is good. Sitting in the stands watching football or enjoying a tailgate party before the game is not good.
Also, around the time the local health department was issuing its warning, state officials were trying to keep the tourism industry alive by encouraging people to take long drives and enjoy the fall foliage.
This is not to say measures aren’t necessary, but so far federal and state officials have not had a stellar record in their response to the pandemic. COVID-19 has become a political issue as much as it is a health issue. People are weary of it all.
To be effective, any new steps taken to reduce the spread of the disease need to take that into consideration.