“Communication is going to be the number one thing that helps fight this,” stated Wayne County Hospital Dr. Joel A. Wells, DO. “All these mitigation strategies trying to keep people from traveling, it all comes down to how we communicate. We’re sitting here trying to decide when you’re going to say the doors are closed, and you’re also trying to decide how to keep doing business. “
As local officials met Tuesday morning in the Wayne County Emergency Operations Center, Dr. Wells joined the discussion as the questions pondering everyone’s minds were asked. How can we move forward with business and remain healthy to keep local offices working?
Wayne County Treasurer Kim Swearingin advised she has the authority to close her office to keep traffic from the public down, however this is a busy time of year and they need the ability to continue working without a threat to their health.
“There is a lot of things that can be done online, by phone, by email, by the public, but we have to keep working or we would be all behind,” said Swearingin.
In a meeting held later in the morning by department heads at the Wayne County Courthouse, it was decided to close the courthouse to the public, with the exception of the third floor court systems. This notice will take effect on Wednesday, March 18 until further notice.
Emergency Management Director Bill Byrns asked Dr. Wells to clarify on tests for the coronavirus within the county.
“We’ve heard several different things on this,” Byrns began.
“We have some tests at the hospital,” said Dr. Wells. “I think they have done half a dozen tests now and we have a few results that still should be coming back. We have no positives.”
“The commercial test the federal government talked about, we don’t have those yet,” Dr. Wells continued. “I’d love to have more tests, but we are testing if we have a good reason to test. We are also encouraging all of our physicians, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners to use their heads and if they think someone needs a test to just do it. We would then ask for more tests to replace those.”
“If you’re not sick, then we’re not testing,” Dr. Wells stated. “We have some guidelines, but we are trying to give people the ability to do their jobs.”
“How long does it take to get the results back?” asked Supervisor Don Seams.
“A couple of days is my understanding, but I don’t know if it’s one and a half or three, there is a turnaround,” Dr. Wells responded. “For a reasonable number of days, you don’t know the results of your test. You could have a case, but you don’t know you have a case.”
“It’s disciplining yourself to self-quarantine, but I don’t know that you will get everyone to do that,” said Seams.
“I don’t know, I actually think there is enough scare publicly that most people will do that,” Dr. Wells added. “I think if someone feels sick they will stay home. However in order to do that they do have to feel they can stay home and not run out of items, and this is why people have bought all this toilet paper.”
“There is no toilet paper shortage, no food shortage, there is no gas shortage, there is no resources shortage, nothing changed other than there is a virus going around,” said Dr. Wells.
Dr. Wells advised his best advice is to communicate with this situation. With the E.O.C. now open within the county, meetings whether scheduled or emergency can be held at any time to stay on top of the events as they unfold and arrive from the governor’s office.
“This is a virus that will kill people and age is a huge factor,” said Dr. Wells when asked what advice he could give to those locally in our community. “In other countries what we are seeing is the people between 50 and 60 it is just shy of a one percent death rate. If you are under 50 it is one-tenth of a percent. So being young is good, but young people are part of the solution. They travel and carry this virus around and it is deadly to older people.”
“It goes up to a mortality rate in the 60 to 70 ages of around four percent roughly, then you go into the ages over 70 and it doubles to about eight percent,” Dr. Wells continued. “When you get into the older people in the 80 and older range and it jumps to 15 percent. If you add in a condition and it’s even higher than that. Those with heart issues seem to really be taking a hit.”
“The doctor I have been in contact with said if it gets into care centers it could be as high as 50 percent,” Seams added.
“That is probably right, it would be horrible if it gets into the care center,” Dr. Wells stated. “That is why we have basically locked it down. Age matters. Resources matter. If everybody gets sick at once, then we won’t have the ability to treat them all. The treatment for those that are really sick is they go into the I.C.U. and they go on a ventilator and it’s normal ventilator management that saves them. It’s not antibiotics that saves them. They get oxygen to breathe for them until they get better.”
“Locally in a small hospital like ours, that’s not what we do,” Dr. Wells continued. “If people get sick at a pace where the medical system can keep up then we can probably handle the job, but not in a large mass.”
“That is what I am hearing is the concern of if this would hit and you would have a lot of people go in for the coronavirus it’s going to fill the hospitals where the everyday heart attack patients and things like that you have to make a decision because you don’t have enough beds,” said Swearingin.
“Every single citizen in this country right now has an obligation to follow these rules because it makes a difference to other people,” said Dr. Wells. “Some may say I’m young, I’ll be ok but if they spread this stuff around it’s going to make a difference to somebody. It really does matter what each and every person does.”
“If they send their kids to grandpa and grandma, they are putting their relatives at risk,” Seams added.
“What will help the medical system do their jobs is for individuals to play their part because we can’t do this without them,” Dr. Wells added.
“Everybody has to come together and work together,” Swearingin agreed.
Dr. Wells stated if you are able to continue working in a safe environment, to continue doing so. “I think your farmers are going to farm aren’t they? If someone works outdoors and wants to build a fence, that’s a good thing.”
It was reiterated that all suggestions are coming from the CDC and/or the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“We aren’t making these things up,” said Dr. Wells. “We are not trying to scare people. This is part of the strategy. Stay in if sick. Take precautions and do our parts. Everybody has to help, if someone ignores our advice, then they aren’t on our team and they aren’t helping.”
The Wayne County Board of Health will be meeting tomorrow morning, Wednesday, March 18 as they continue to work together for the betterment of health and safety for the citizens in our community.
We will continue to keep our readers updated as new information arrives.