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QC COVID Coalition: Addressing misconceptions

The health departments will be addressing misconceptions that exist regarding COVID-19, prevention measures, and risks of its spread.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — The QC Coalition says local health departments will be addressing misconceptions that exist regarding COVID-19, prevention measures, and risks of its spread.

The QC Coalition meeting is recorded watch below!

The Coalition released the following information on misconceptions and what to look out for.

Scammers pretending to be contact tracers

Remarks from Janet Hill, chief operating officer, Rock Island County Health Department

With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, our contact tracers are busy. Unfortunately, so are scammers. Our contact tracers are calling to break the chain of infection in our communities. We need you to pick our calls and answer our questions.

Contact tracing is a basic and free public health infection control measure, and it is confidential. Your contacts only will be told that they were exposed to the virus — they will not be told your name.

We will never ask you or any of your contacts for financial information, payment for services or your Social Security number. Anybody who does is a scammer. Please note the number that called you and alert your local police department.

Our contact tracers are working at the Rock Island County Health Department. They are using a statewide data system that calls from 312-777-1999. Even though it’s a Chicago number, Rock Island County Health Department workers are calling you. Please pick up. We also might be calling from a health department phone. Those numbers start as 309-558. We also may call from a health department cell phone. Those numbers start as 309-737.

In Scott County, contact tracers will call from numbers that start 563-326.

Correcting misinformation

Remarks from Nita Ludwig, administrator, Rock Island County Health Department

As we have said from day 1, the novel coronavirus is just that – novel, meaning new.  We have watched in real time as our public health and health care systems have learned more about the virus and associated COVID-19 illness nearly daily. 

We never expected ourselves to be in a pandemic of global proportions. We know it would be easier to write off what we hear about COVID-19 as untrue or inflated. It would surely be easier to live our day-to-day lives if a pandemic wasn’t looming.

For these reasons, we hear many misconceptions shared about the virus, sometimes in an effort to downplay it with the hope of living our lives with fewer restrictions at this time. We want to take today’s briefing to help describe the misconceptions and provide accurate information.

Misconception #1:  Most people with COVID-19 don’t get very sick, so it’s not a big deal.

·         First, it is hard to get a handle on how many people have COVID-19.

·         Some individuals may have it and don’t know it.

·         Some individuals may have such mild symptoms that they don’t consider COVID-19 as the cause and therefore don’t get tested.

·         Then we still have the group of individuals that we know have COVID-19 because they tested.  This group varies across a spectrum, from individuals with very mild symptoms to more severe symptoms to individuals with very serious symptoms requiring hospitalization.

·         Of those individuals with more serious illness, we are hearing reports of individuals having lasting lung issues, long past their actual recovery from the virus.  Others end up on ventilators in the ICU.  And there are others still that die as a result of their illness.

·         Remember, individuals that end up contracting COVID-19 will end up falling somewhere on that spectrum in terms of symptom severity. 

·         There is no magic indicator of whether someone will have mild illness or more severe illness. 

·         As the virus continues to spread, it puts individuals who are more vulnerable (such as those who are older or have underlying heath conditions) at greater risk of catching the virus and experiencing severe illness.

Misconception #2:  About 99.9% of people aren’t at risk of dying from COVID-19

·         This was a statement that we read in our community recently.

·         Because we do not know exactly how someone’s body and immune system will respond to the coronavirus, 100% of people are at risk of dying from COVID-19.

·         You can’t turn on the news without hearing a story of a healthy young adult succumbing to the virus.  In our own community we have experienced deaths of individuals from their early 30s to older than 80. 

·         The virus itself does not discriminate.

Misconception #3:  The PCR test (test used to identify current infections of COVID-19) doesn’t really even tell us who could currently spread the virus to others.

·         The PCR test is the current test used to determine if an individual is currently infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, also known as the coronavirus.

·         It detects if the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the RNA, is currently present.

·         The test is considered to be very reliable.

Misconception #4:  This whole virus has been blown out of proportion and will be over/out of the news after the presidential election.

·         Since March 21, when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in a Scott County resident and March 22 for a Rock Island County resident, contact tracers from both health departments have conducted in-depth interviews with more than 90% of the 8,000 individuals that have tested positive in our counties. 

·         These are individuals who voluntarily tested based on showing signs of illness or being in close contact to someone with COVID-19.

·         These people are real.  Their stories are real.  Their symptoms are real.  This virus is real.

·         While politics may dictate the federal response to this virus, this virus will not magically disappear after the election.

·         I can guarantee that after the outcome of the presidential election is decided, we will continue to have spread of the virus, people will continue to show symptoms of the virus, people will continue to test positive for the virus, and we will continue to contact trace to help stop it.

More corrections to misinformation

Remarks from Amy Thoreson, deputy director, Scott County Health Department

Misconception #5:  We should just let everyone get COVID-19 and then we wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.

·         Herd immunity is a real thing, and in this case, a real scary thing.

·         Herd immunity occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (either through immunization or prior illness).

·         Attempts to reach ‘herd immunity’ through exposing people to a virus are scientifically problematic and unethical.

·         Letting COVID-19 spread through populations of any age or health status will lead to unnecessary infections, suffering, and death.  Much of the burden of infections, suffering, and death would be disproportionately borne by those who are most vulnerable in our community:  older adults, individuals with underlying health conditions, low-income and minority individuals in front-line work who are more at risk for exposure to a virus that is spreading.

Misconception #6:  If I have already had COVID-19, I don’t have to wear a mask.

·         Each day we learn more about this new virus that is spreading in our community. 

·         Current data tells us that COVID-19 antibodies can last in an individual that was infected with the coronavirus for a short amount of time, although we do not know how long. 

·         This means that over time, the individual can once again be at risk of being infected by the coronavirus if they come into contact with an individual who is currently infectious. 

·         Conversely, the individual can also once again become infected with the virus and possibly spread it without even knowing they are infected.

·         It remains very important for all individuals to wear a mask, socially distance, and stay home when they are sick to help reduce the spread of this virus.

Misconception #7:  I don’t have a fever so I must not have COVID-19.

·         In case you haven’t noticed, the symptoms of COVID-19 are vast and similar to symptoms of a number of respiratory illnesses and some gastrointestinal illnesses, too.

·         Unfortunately, there is no stand-alone symptom that definitively tells someone they have COVID. 

·         In talking with our contact tracers that interview all individuals who are positive for COVID, many actually do not have a fever. Their symptoms may be as mild as mimicking seasonal allergies or a minor sinus infection.

·         The only way you will know if you have COVID is to get tested. 

·         Many employers and other group settings are checking temperatures upon entry.  This isn’t because fever is a tell-all for COVID – it’s because it is one symptom that can be monitored externally.  We encourage all who are monitoring temperatures also to ask if individuals are also experiencing any other COVID-19 symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, new loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, severe headache, or muscle aches.

·         Individuals experiencing any symptoms should stay home and consider getting tested.

Misconception #8:  I’m not worried about catching COVID-19 at a gathering (family gathering, wedding) because people won’t come if they’re sick.

·         Boy, do we wish this was true.

·         At these types of events, you could run into any of the following:

o   An individual that has COVID and doesn’t know it. (asymptomatic)

o   An individual that has such mild symptoms that they don’t consider COVID-19 as the cause and go about his or her business.

o   An individual that knows they have COVID and attends anyway

·         Unfortunately, we have heard too many stories of individuals knowingly interacting when they have had a positive COVID-19 test

·         You can know someone, love someone, trust someone and that person could still have COVID and not know it. 

·         Our first recommendation is to not participate in these types of gatherings, especially as they head indoors, because the level of risk of spread of COVID-19 is pretty high.

·         If you must attend a gathering, wear your facemask at all times.  And keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others who don’t live in your household.

We know you’re over this all.  We couldn’t agree with you more. We are tired, we are feeling defeated, and we don’t have a clear picture of how and when things will change.  But this virus isn’t done with us. We are at a dangerous point where the willingness of our community to respond is waning just as our level of risk of the virus is increasing. The risk someone has of catching COVID in the community is so much higher now than it was when we were locked down back in March in April because the number of cases is so much higher. This virus doesn’t care how run down we feel and how frustrated we are.  All it needs to spread is close contact and no face coverings. And gatherings such as Thanksgiving and other winter holidays.

The time to act is now.

More information

·         https://www.scottcountyiowa.gov/health/post/do-masks-prevent-covid-19

·         https://togetherqc.com/2020/10/mask-mandate-local-initiative/

·         www.TogetherQC.com

·         coronavirus.iowa.gov

·         https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19

·         https://www.dph.illinois.gov/regionmetrics?regionID=2

·         https://www.dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics?county=Rock%20Island

·         https://www2.illinois.gov/idoc/facilities/Pages/Covid19Response.aspx

·         https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/long-term-care-facility-outbreaks-covid-19