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Ottawa County continues planning, preparations for COVID-19

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Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 17:47:03-04

OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Ottawa County officials provided an update to their response and preparations for the COVID-19 outbreak on Tuesday.

At this point, there is just one confirmed case in Ottawa County: a middle-aged woman without a history of travel. Officials said the lack of travel history is important because it indicates a possible exposure by an undiagnosed exposure within the community.

"We believe (the virus is) in the community and an unknown number of people may be infected or without symptoms, and not diagnosed by a health care provider," said Ottawa County health officer Lisa Stefanowski. "This is very important because we want everybody to follow the governor's directive by staying at least six feet away from other people, not doing congregate settings and following all of the prevention efforts like washing your hands, covering your mouth, and if you're sick, please please please stay home and out of the public."

Stefanowski stressed that most people are at a very low risk, but that it was important to protect people who have chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults.

"For the rest of the population, we're the ones that can transmit it so we have to watch out for those most at risk," she said.

Health and emergency management staff are actively monitoring the constantly developing updates that have come with the coronavirus outbreak.

When a health agency is notified about a case, an investigation is immediately started into the patient and their recent activity.

Stefanowski said the first step is to contact the person's doctor to get more information on their medical history. Next, they contact the sick person to learn more about their symptoms, when they started, where they went for care and their location before starting to feel sick.

Once officials have enough information, they start educating the patient on how to prevent spreading the disease to others and to stay in isolation until their symptoms are gone and they get a release from their doctor.

During the investigation, a list of all the people the patient has come into close contact with is compiled. All those people are told to isolate themselves and to call their doctors if they start experiencing symptoms as well.

Emergency manager Nick Bonstell said emergency services are still fully operational and his department is taking steps to ensure it will stay that way.

So far, emergency management is working to get personal protective equipment for first responders. Some of the items include, gloves, masks, gowns and sanitizers.

Bonstell said area fire departments will start closing or limiting public access to the buildings to ensure firefighters stay healthy during the outbreak. People who have business to conduct with the fire department are encouraged to call ahead and set up an appointment.

Both fire and law enforcement agencies are both operating at full capacity during the outbreak. Bonstell and Ottawa County Sheriff's Office Capt. Mark Bennett said emergency services haven't been interrupted to this point.

People who call 911 may be asked different questions to allow first responders to take adequate preparations. Callers may also be asked to meet responders outside their homes in non-emergency situations or to just file their report over the phone when possible.

Those interested in volunteering or donating money to the county's coronavirus response can do so by going to the county's website. Bonstell said volunteers are currently being vetted to ensure safety within the community.

Anyone in need of assistance can call 211.