Health Department Head: Don’t Panic

The head of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department is telling the public to not be living in fear.

SGCHD Director of Health Clay Goddard held a press conference Thursday to address a number of issues related to the novel coronavirus and concerns about the potential impact upon the community from the virus. One thing that Goddard highlighted was that the public does not need to be living in fear.

“We don’t need to be overreacting to this,” Goddard said. “I’ve been down this path many times. I’m not panicked. I promise you, I’m not. If I’m not panicked as a health director, you shouldn’t be panicked as a healthy citizen.”

“People get worried,” Goddard continued, “People get worried about things they cannot control and they let their imagination run away from them. This has happened with Ebola, it’s happened with H1N1, West Nile Virus. We’ve been through this before.”

Goddard touched on how panic can itself can be a problem.

“Panic can become an infectious disease,” Goddard said. “It can feed upon itself and I don’t think that’s a healthy way to make intelligent, smart decisions as a community. It’s better to be very, very rational, and strategic in how you react. Panic cannot drive that.”

Goddard said the public just needs to take steps to be informed about the situation from reliable sources like their local health departments.

“We need to educate ourselves,” Goddard said. “Stay informed…and if you need somebody to talk to, call the hotline. If that’s not enough, call your physician’s office.”

At the same time, Goddard also did talk about proactive steps that some are seeing as overreactions, such as the cancellation of sporting events or other gatherings, saying that those actions are not necessarily bad ideas.

“At this point, we’re recommending that if they can cancel [major events] that they should,” Goddard told reporters. He reiterated he had the power to restrict public gatherings if he felt it was a necessary step for public health.

Goddard also spoke about the use of tactics like social distancing to enact what is being called “flattening the curve.” The idea is that through use of mitigating tactics, the spread of the infection a community may last a little longer but will have less of an overall impact on the area’s health care system. This will ensure that hospitals and other health care providers can treat the sickest patients with available supplies.

Goddard admitted that the vast majority of those who will contract COVID-19 will have very mild symptoms, however, those with mild symptoms can spread the virus to those in high risk categories who could have a more adverse outcome to the infection.

He then said anyone who is feeling sick should stay home from work, school, or other large gatherings. Even if they do not have coronavirus, but have something like the flu, the same rules would apply to stop the spread of disease.

At the press conference it was revealed that three Greene County residents have been tested for the virus. The three had either recently traveled or had been in contact with someone who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and were showing signs of illness. Those people are in self-isolation awaiting test results.

Goddard said the department was ordering more test kits, and had ordered the maximum of five from a private lab, and wanted to reassure the public they were doing all they could to increase the availability of testing for patients who meet testing criteria.

Goddard said at the end of all of this, he wants to have our community defined by how we responded to the virus and not let a viral outbreak define the community.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department recommends the following steps for citizens to protect themselves against coronavirus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Take everyday preventive actions
    • Clean your hands often
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
    • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
    • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
    • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
    • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
    • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.

The Health Department has a website set up for those with questions about coronavirus, and residents can email questions to coronavirus@springfieldmo.gov. You can also call 417-874-1211 to be connected to a state hotline focused on the virus.

(Headline photo of Clay Goddard from last week’s press conference.)

Reader Comments