Health officials walk supervisors through COVID-19 response in Seneca County

Supervisors get update on COVID-19

– By Josh Durso

On Tuesday, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors received their first official update from Public Health Director Vickie Swinehart on COVID-19, or the Coronavirus.

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but XX people are under voluntary quarantine.

“Right now it’s time to prepare — not panic,” Swinehart said. “You’re hearing the worst case scenario out there. Take a step back. This is still a major issue — testing is a significant one, but unless you’re symptomatic or you come into contact with someone who has [COVID-19] there isn’t a need for worry right now.”

Swinehart says it is time for department heads, elected officials, and the rest of the community to start preparing for things like quarantine, or limited contact. She said hand-washing is the best way to combat and prevent spread of the Coronavirus. She also noted that cleaning off frequently used surfaces is important.

“Right now we’re still under containment,” Swinehart explained. Those who are traveling from outside the country are being monitored by local health officials. “We will eventually move into community mitigation. We’re not there yet. Once we do community mitigation, everyone will have to talk about this. We need to be thinking about this, though. Even though we’re not there yet.”

She says that officials should start thinking about who most-essential staff are, and ranking priority tasks. “You have to start thinking about that, including who can work from home,” Swinehart added. “It’s better to have a conversation now,” which includes working with the County’s Information Technology department so that the County can continue functioning.

As for Public Health, the need for additional staff could be realized. “If we see an outbreak here we will need additional nurses,” Swinehart explained. This would particularly be necessary if more aggressive steps needed to be taken. The issue at this point, though, is that the expectations are moving by the day. “Everything that I’m telling you now could change tomorrow,” she added. “It’s important to understand how quickly this situation is evolving. Right now Seneca County is well-positioned, but we will continue monitoring moving forward.”

Swinehart says plans exist to address everything from home visits for testing under certain circumstances, and ensuring that protective supplies are maintained in-house.

The Centers for Disease Control says the virus spreads most-commonly through person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness,” the CDC says. They ask anyone who feels they may have symptoms of the coronavirus to contact their health care provider.


Taking steps to protect yourself and your family is crucial. The CDC recommends the following:

Clean your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

Meanwhile if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms — the CDC recommends the following:

Stay home if you’re sick

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Wear a facemask if you are sick

  • If you are sick:  You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
  • If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

To disinfect:

Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Options include:

  • Diluting your household bleach.
    To make a bleach solution, mix:

    • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water
      OR
    • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
  • Alcohol solutions.
    Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.
  • Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants.
    Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens pdf icon
    [7 pages]external icon
     claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

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