Originally published on The Van Wert Independent
Dave Mosier / independent editor
With a confirmed case of COVID-19 now identified in Van Wert County, Dr. George Trimble, a physician at Van Wert Health on the front lines of local efforts to combat the virus, said it is even more important now for local residents to continue to do the things that will hamper the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the keys to effectively handling COVID-19 cases, Dr. Trimble said — in addition to maintaining social distancing, hand washing, and sanitizing household surfaces — is, surprisingly, not to overreact to catching the COVID-19 virus.
“People need to treat this like the common cold or flu: drink fluids, stay in bed, and take Tylenol for aches and pains,” the local physician noted, adding that most people who catch COVID-19 will only have relatively minor symptoms to deal with.
Dr. Trimble said that people who think they may have COVID-19 should either call their doctor or the Van Wert Health helpline (419.203.9161) to receive direction on how to treat the symptoms.
However, there is an important reason for people to maintain social distancing and to stay at home during this outbreak, because of the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus.
“This disease is super contagious, maybe not as contagious as smallpox, but more contagious that anything else we’re used to in our society,” Dr. Trimble noted. With the virus’ ability to remain on surfaces for anywhere from hours up to days, depending on the surface, it’s also important to make sure to keep surfaces clean and to wash one’s hands often for at least 20 seconds.
Until symptoms are serious enough to warrant intensive hospital care (serious breathing problems, etc.), there is little healthcare professionals can do to treat those suffering from more minor symptoms of COVID-19, Dr. Trimble said, adding that people should just self-medicate at home.
The biggest reason to stay away from the ER is the shortage of personal protection equipment (PPEs) — masks, gloves, etc. — needed to keep medical staff members who work in close contact with sick people safe from infection. Every time someone with minor symptoms comes to the ER unnecessarily, medical staff members must use valuable masks and gloves that are already in short supply, he noted, adding that testing kits are also very limited.
The biggest challenge with COVID-19 is a logistical one: keeping the caseload as small as possible so cases don’t overwhelm the number of available hospital beds and needed equipment, such as gloves, masks, and, in very serious cases, ventilators. Van Wert Health has just three ventilators and five ICU beds to use for serious cases.
Having people stay at home is also important, Dr. Trimble said, to “flatten the curve” of infection for the disease. With a certain number of hospital beds already being used for patients suffering from other illnesses and injuries, getting too many COVID-19 cases at one time would likely overwhelm the local healthcare system.
“Each person who gets the disease will give it to three others,” he said, adding that lessening the number of initial cases also significantly lowers the number of people who ultimately will catch the virus — as well as how many people have it at any one time — due to the exponential spread of contagious diseases.
Dr. Trimble praised the decisive action taken by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Health Director Dr. Amy Acton as instrumental in lowering the number of Ohioans who get COVID-19.
“We were lucky in that we got the lesson of California and New York to rattle our cage a little bit, let us know this is here, it’s hitting home, and so it allowed us to kind of react ahead of time, get ahead of the curve,” he explained.
Now, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, he added, noting that people must continue to stay at home until the outbreak is over.
“My fear is that, over time, people will start to lose the sense of immediacy,” Dr. Trimble said. “We’ve got to persist until this gets through or we lose our advantage, and we could be very quickly in the situation we see New York in right now.”
Meanwhile, the Van Wert Health physician said he is pleased with what local residents are doing to keep the spread of the virus contained.
“I want to tell them ‘thank you’,” he noted. “They have done a great job, they have been staying home, they haven’t overwhelmed our emergency room yet, people are really making a difference.”
The community has also been very supportive by providing equipment to help maintain the safety of medical personnel, said Ellen Rager, VW Health patient-community coordinator. Rager noted that local company Cool Machines and Van Wert Rotary Club donated 2,000 N-95 masks to the hospital, while other local residents have also made donations of unused masks.
“This was such a special gift when they brought in all these masks,” she added.
Rager also noted that members of the hospital’s Lady Board of Managers have also been sewing cloth masks that can be used by hospital personnel treating non-contagious patients, so the N-95 masks can be saved for patients suffering from COVID-19 and other contagious diseases.
Dr. Trimble also noted that, while young people aren’t as much at risk for serious COVID-19 symptoms, young people are still dying from the disease around the world.
“It’s not often that young people have the chance to be heroes,” the physician said, stressing the fact that it takes everyone doing their part to keep the spread of COVID-19 down.
“This is not like an asteroid coming from outer space over which we have no control,” he explained. “We do have some influence (over the outcome).
“The fix comes when individuals, each person in our little community, makes his or her own choices to do the right thing,” Dr. Trimble said. “These things that we talk about, like social distancing and hand washing and staying out of the public — and even the basic premise that you accept that this is dangerous and get over the denial that this isn’t really a problem — these small acts really do make a difference and they can impact the trajectory of this disease.
“I hope we each take up that power, grab it, and run with it, because it matters,” he said.