What are the main symptoms of COVID-19? What can businesses do about the disease? What about migrant workers?
These were a few of the dozens of questions people sent in before and during a virtual town hall hosted by District Health Department No. 10 Monday afternoon.
People were able to ask questions about the recent uptick of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Oceana and Newaygo counties. More than 270 people attended the live Microsoft Teams meeting. It was recorded and will be posted on the health department website, www.dhd10.org.
“(This meeting is) for county residents to discuss the increased cases in their communities,” said Jeannine Taylor at the beginning. Taylor is the health department public information officer who monitored the meeting.
The health department announced that the recent increase in cases in Oceana County came from five farms and factories at a virtual press conference on Friday. The press conference was recorded and is available on its website.
Two of those businesses account for 80 percent of the cases. The majority of remaining cases were spread from those employees to family members.
The meeting questions covered a variety of topics such as the risks of not wearing a mask, what contact tracing is and what the farms and factories with outbreaks are doing to stop the spread of COVID-19.
A team from the health department staff answered these questions, including Dr. Jennifer Morse, Kevin Hughes and Robin Walicki.
Much of the advice was general — stay home from work if you are sick and wear a mask to protect others.
“Wearing a mask is not losing your freedom of choice, but it’s showing respect for your community members, your friends and your family,” Morse said.
Symptomless people who have COVID-19 can be contagious. The most contagious period is two days before people with COVID-19 begin to show symptoms, Morse said.
Wearing a mask is just one piece of the puzzle for reducing the number of cases of COVID-19, she said.
“Just assume everyone is infected, including yourself,” she said.
People asked to know more about the locations of the major outbreaks. The health department will not be releasing the names of the businesses unless it will impact public health.
“The guidance doesn’t change whether you know the location or not,” Taylor said.
Michigan Department of Health & Human Services provides resources for migrant workers and employers. The health department is also working with Michigan State University to provide training.
Some attendees asked about specific events and locations, such as the Double JJ Resort indoor water park. Hughes said the health department was in contact with the park about closing.
People wanted to know when things would be back to normal. Morse explained it is impossible to predict, but the health department is working with the businesses to ensure they are following protocol and are encouraging people to be diligent in their personal lives.
The key to opening slowly is to prevent overwhelming the health care system again, Morse said.
“Hopefully with time we will be able to gradually lesson the precautions,” she said.
A reopening preparedness plan for businesses is available on the health department website at www.dhd10.org/wp-content/uploads/.
No other town hall meetings are scheduled for Oceana and Newaygo counties at this time, according to Taylor.
A community education plan for Oceana County members is being developed. People can send their input to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If another one is warranted, we will schedule one. If something changes or if there is something new to be reported, we will schedule another public meeting,” Taylor said.