Louisa County remains coronavirus-free, at least this week. But Louisans don’t live in a bubble. With that in mind, public officials are trying to make the community as prepared as possible if cases are reported here.
A letter from Louisa County Public Schools about the virus was sent home to parents on March 9. Superintendent Doug Straley wrote that the schools are stepping up efforts to keep the halls and classrooms clean.
“Our cleaning and disinfecting practices of both classrooms and buses have been rigorous to continue to reduce the spread of illness,” he said. “We are also encouraging staff and students to practice frequent and proper handwashing techniques as well as staying home when sick.”
County officials followed with a press release on March 10 in which they echoed advice from the Virginia Department of Health to wash hands often and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. Officials also suggest that people avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth and to cover their mouths and nose with a tissue or their sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing.
“Citizens can play a vital role in reducing the potential spread of the virus,” said Bob Babyok, Louisa County Board of Supervisors chairman.
Until last weekend there had been no coronavirus cases in Virginia. By mid-week there were eight, including one in Spotsylvania County. How that person, said to be a man in his 50s, caught the virus had not been determined as of Wednesday morning.
The most common symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Doctors are being advised to rule out other possible illnesses such as the flu before recommending a person be tested for the coronavirus. Not every doctor will be able to conduct a test themselves, because of limited testing supplies.
“It’s important for people to talk to their doctor to find out if they have the capability, or find out where they can get it,” said Lillian Peake, the state epidemiologist.
She said the flu remains more of a risk for Virginians than the coronavirus. So far there has not been what she called community spread, cases where the virus cannot be traced back to its source. Officials are most concerned with people who may have traveled to places where the virus has infected a large number of people, such as Italy.
The health department advised businesses to be liberal in their use of sick leave, to make sure workers don’t feel compelled to come to work when they may have the coronavirus and could spread it to others.
The Thomas Jefferson Health District, a division of the state health department, has set up a hotline for citizens to call with questions about the coronavirus. The number is 434-972-6261. The hotline is accepting calls Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.