TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Vigo County Public Health Department held a press conference to ease concerns and answer questions about the coronavirus after Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a health state of emergency.
Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health confirmed the first case of coronavirus in a Marion County resident with a recent history of travel to a Boston event tied to several cases in other states.
“We want to be open and honest and get that information to you as quickly and accurately as possible,” Vigo County Health Department health educator Roni Elder said.
No one from Vigo County is currently being evaluated for coronavirus at this time, according to Elder; however, she noted that “it’s realistic to think that eventually it can come to our county.”
Vigo County responds to the announcement
From medical facilities to local universities, to government offices, new measures are in place to keep the community informed and protected.
For Vigo County government employees who work in the Vigo County annex, Commissioner Brendan Kearns says sanitation is a top priority.
“We have a rotation in all areas in all public spaces of our buildings to every hour have everything sanitized.”
Regional and Union hospitals are putting visitor restrictions and screenings in place starting Monday.
Union Health official Marc Keilman says those entering Union Hospital’s east building one and west building two will be asked to answer a few questions.
“It’ll be a series of three questions that anybody coming through the main entrances will be asked around fever, Cough, shortness of breath. Travel to known areas identified by the CDC and then recent exposure to patients with COVID-19.”
Local universities are also taking action.
Indiana State University is suspending all university-led international travel for spring break.
ISU has 18 students abroad. Three of those students are in Italy, a level 3 country, with widespread transmission of coronavirus.
Greg Goode, Executive Director of Government Relations and University Communication says “The university is working with them to return to the United States. And they will follow a 14-day quarantine in their home communities before they return to the campus.”
Goode says the school will remain calm but vigilant.
“The very first thing Governor Holcomb and the State Department of Health said today was to remain calm and to stay focused on our work and our lives. And not to be scared. And that’s how we are going to continue to operate.”
Due to the family educational rights and privacy act, ISU could not tell us if the students in Italy are Indiana residents.
Rose-Hulman has also suspended university related travel to high risk location related to covid-19.
While Rose-Hulman did not take part in the press conference, they issued the following statement regarding coronavirus:
Rose-Hulman is committed to the health and safety of all campus members. As such, we are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) both within the U.S. and abroad, and are operating in accordance with federal and local health agency and emergency response directives.
At this time, we are suspending all institute-related travel to and from identified Level 2 and Level 3 locations related to COVID-19. We are not aware of students being in Level 3 areas, however we are asking all of campus, as well as visitors, to self-report their travel and any symptoms through an online form before coming to campus. Given the fluidity of the situation, we continue to have ongoing discussions with students, faculty and staff around travel.
The impact on our overall study abroad programs to this point is minimal. We encourage students to continue to explore global experience opportunities and will work individually with each student to ensure they find the appropriate opportunity that will work for their academic program and successful future. We are still planning for summer and fall study abroad, but will continue to monitor and adjust as appropriate and in line with policies.
More information about our actions can be found on our website at: https://www.rose-hulman.edu/about-us/community-and-public-services/health/index.html. Please check that page regularly for updates. At this time, Rose-Hulman officials, faculty or students are not available for interviews.
Taking precautions against COVID-19
Officials with the Vigo County Health Department say the best way to prevent spread of COVID-19 is to practice preventative measures such as washing your hands and covering coughs and sneezes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say symptoms of COVID-19 include shortness of breath, coughing and fever.
Elder says if a person suspects they have the coronavirus, they should “call the office that they’re going to and let them know that they have these symptoms. If they’re calling the ambulance, they should let the dispatchers know, so EMT’s can be prepared on what they need to do to protect themselves and that patient.”
The Vigo County Health Department says there are currently no COVID-19 test kits in Vigo County, but they would contact the state if there were a need for testing.
Elder reminded the public to continue to check the health department website for updates on the coronavirus from the Joint Information Center.