By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Though six local people have been voluntarily quarantined as precautions against coronavirus (COVID-19) since the first case was reported in New York State, said Bassett Hospital President William LeCates Tuesday, March 10.
As of presstime, none had developed symptoms or tested positive, Dr. LeCates said.
“We’ve administered between two and five tests, and not one has come back positive,” he said. “I’ve been keeping track of all reported cases, and we haven’t had a single case in Otsego, Herkimer, Schoharie or Delaware counties.”
Currently, four travelers from Italy, including a student studying abroad, are under precautionary quarantine, according to Heidi Bond, public health director for the county.
“They’re all doing well,” she said. “And the three who had been quarantined last week did not come down with symptoms.”
A two-week quarantine is recommended for someone who has traveled to a Level 2 or 3 county – China, Japan, South Korea and Italy – in the last two weeks.
“That means you are home for 14 days from when you believed you were exposed,” she said. “That means you should not leave except to go to medical appointments, no public transport, no large gatherings, have people bring you food and household items.”
People in quarantine can go outside on their own property, but are advised against being in contact with their neighbors – and there can be trouble if you don’t follow the rules. “If someone tests positive, it becomes a mandatory quarantine,” she said. “If the person doesn’t abide, there can be legal ramifications.”
There are two types of exposure, she said – approximate exposure, such as being in the same classroom or event as someone who may not be symptomatic, and prolonged exposure, from being within six feet of someone who may be symptomatic.
If during the quarantine, a patient begins to show symptoms and does not test positive for other respiratory illnesses, including a cold or the flu, Bassett, working with the county and state health departments, can order a test.
“It gets complicated,” said LeCates. “A person might have a cough or a fever, then we have to review their risks and see if the state determines that we should take a sample.”
Though Bassett doctors will collect the sample, the testing is done by the state labs.
And although no cases have been confirmed yet, LeCates believes it’s likely a matter of time before the first case is diagnosed.
“It’s progressing at a rapid pace,” he said. “And Bassett is preparing for a time when we do get positive cases. We’re looking at the challenges hospitals are facing around the county and the world, and trying to plan for that.”
Planning includes making sure they have a number of quarantined beds available for patients who test positive for COVID-19, and creating an area for large-scale testing. “We are trying to identify spaces where we could contain it to prevent the spread if it does become common,” he said.
Hospital staff are also being trained on what protective gear to wear if they are to be in contact with someone who tested positively for COVID-19.
Bassett plans to set up a hotline by the end of the week for anyone with questions about coronavirus. “
In the meantime, LeCates encourages people to monitor any symptoms and contact their doctors if they are unwell.
“It’s about good community practice,” he said. “That includes washing your hands, staying home if you are sick, and avoiding large gatherings to avoid spreading any illness, not just COVID-19.”