Pocono residents should take caution to limit spread to vulnerable populations like the elderly

Coronavirus is presumed to have made its way to the Keystone State.

With Governor Tom Wolf’s Friday morning announcement of two potential COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth, which includes one in Wayne County, Pennsylvanians are wondering about the severity of the situation.

The state has issued a “disaster declaration”, which does little to calm the public’s fears. This declaration is necessary, however, to ensure state agencies have the support needed to contain and treat the disease.

Pennsylvania’s coronavirus website includes links to the state’s Emergency Preparedness Guide, which includes information on how to make plans, build emergency kits, and other tips for navigating an emergency situation. While many of the tips appear to be in reference to preparing for a natural disaster or something of similarly devastating proportions, some of the information may be useful if you’re preparing for a health emergency.

Is it all hype? Should we be worried?

Officials from Wayne Memorial Community Health Center announced at a press conference Friday that a male patient who visited the Carbondale Family Health Center on Wednesday tested positive for COVID-19. The patient’s symptoms were described as “mild” and secondary confirmation tests were sent to the CDC to determine whether the patient actually has coronavirus.

Those results may be available as early as Saturday, and would establish the virus’ presence in the Poconos. Wayne County is considered a part of the Pocono Mountains region.

On Feb. 13, the Pocono Record published the editorial: “You’re more likely to encounter this disease in the Poconos than coronavirus.”

While that sentiment may still be true, that is not a reason to balk at the risk of catching, and spreading, coronavirus.

As with influenza, the risk of falling ill from coronavirus is higher among immunocompromised individuals and the elderly. And while some doctors say children aren’t particularly vulnerable, other experts say there isn’t enough data to prove children aren’t at risk.

Just because coronavirus is more likely to infect vulnerable populations— like the elderly— doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. In fact, it’s reason to be more prepared.

Secondary infections due to household transmissions are likely to be common, due to how easily respiratory viruses tend to be spread within families. In today’s world of multi-generational households, even if you aren’t sick, the potential to bring the virus home with you and infect others exists.

According to a Friday afternoon press release from Pike County Commissioners, the two presumptive cases in Pennsylvania are related to the patients’ travel histories, and at the time of this column, there is no evidence of community transmission. Still, officials urge caution and that Pennsylvanians continue to follow the recommendations from the CDC to limit the potential spread.

Taking precautions not to spread the virus, even if you are healthy, can help contain its spread in the Poconos. It can’t be repeated enough: keep up with good hygiene, stay home if you’re not feeling well, keep surfaces clean, don’t cough or sneeze into your hands, and if you are sick— call your healthcare provider.

For more information, visit health.pa.gov.

— The Pocono Record