Over the past week, we have been hearing and seeing new challenges that I wanted to share with you. As states continue to navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic and develop a plan for phased reopening of activities, it is important to remember that pandemics typically bring on a second, and possibly third, wave of cases. This means that as we begin to reopen and increase activities, we can also expect to see an increase in positive cases. Without a vaccine, we will continue to face possible waves of infection.
The range of symptoms reported for COVID-19 have increased. People with the following symptoms may have COVID-19: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Locally, we have a growing area of concern around outbreaks in places where vulnerable people live close together, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails and shelters. Social distancing has been effective in preventing the disease from decimating in the broader community, but we are seeing several outbreaks in congregant living systems that are more intense given the nature of the conditions. We are actively working with our congregant living facilities to train staff and offer support. These clusters can expose the larger community when employees go back home and out in the community, such as essential trips to the store. It is important that we continue our efforts to follow guidance: staying at home, only going out for essential trips, following social distancing, and protecting others by wearing a cloth face covering.
Public health emergencies, such as COVID-19, can lead to stigma of people, places, and things believed to be associated with the virus. Viruses don’t discriminate and neither should we! Stigma can result in negative health consequences to those being stigmatized and create an environment of mistrust or anger in a community. As positive cases increase, unfortunately stigma too may increase.
How can you fight stigma? If one of your co-workers, family members, or friends had or currently have COVID-19, support them as they finish recovery. Stop the spread of rumors and misinformation by only sharing accurate information about the virus. Schedule a time for a video chat to check in and see how they are doing. Support them as they return to normal activities. Remember, someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose an increased risk of infection to other people, however, it is important for them to continue following the standard public health guidance.
Lastly, I want to leave you with a quote: “The pandemic is not over anywhere, until it is over everywhere.” — Harvey V. Fineberg, former Dean, Harvard School of Public Health, and former President, National Academy of Sciences
Please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus or call the health department’s information call center if you have any questions or concerns: 1-855-949-8378, open Monday-Friday 8 a.m-6 p.m.
Virginia’s health is in your hands. Do your part, stop the spread.
Dr. Molly O’Dell
Director of Communicable Disease Control