Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has reached our region, with cases reported to the Health Departments in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. One Virginia patient is in the military, stationed at Quantico Marine Base, and undergoing treatment at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. Another Virginia patient is in stable condition at a local hospital in Fairfax County. Both men had returned recently from overseas travel.
While coronavirus is the lead on nearly every newscast, the incidence of the virus in this area and this country remains low. Local and state health departments are working together to address the outbreak, and the messaging is pretty simple: don’t panic. The runs on hand sanitizer and face masks are good examples of panic. Hand sanitizers first were developed in the mid-1960s; soap and water have been around for millennia. Face masks help keep germs from spreading if you already are infected, but are otherwise generally ineffective.
Use good hygiene practices at all times, just like most parents teach their children. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Some suggest singing the Happy Birthday song twice to time your wash; one verse takes about 10 seconds, so two rounds are adequate. You may feel a little silly, but your hands will be clean. Be very careful about touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after shaking hands or touching common surfaces (doorknobs, shopping cart handles, etc.). When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth, or cough into your elbow or sleeve. Eat healthy foods, get enough rest, and don’t allow yourself to get run down. If you feel sick or are running a fever, stay home. These are the same steps you can take to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold.
The Fairfax County Health Department is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health, health care providers, and public health and safety partners, to identify quickly anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The departments are working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to test people for COVID-19, as needed. If the diagnosis is confirmed, they work with the patient, their medical provider, and their family to treat the patient and isolate the individual. “Contact investigations” will be conducted by the health departments to reach out to anyone who has been in close contact with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 These are the same actions undertaken to stop the spread of all types of diseases, including tuberculosis, measles, and meningitis. For more information, from a trusted and knowledgeable source, log on to www.vdh.virginia.gov, or www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus. Information on these websites is updated frequently.
In the midst of health discussions, the county’s budget process continues. The annual Mason District Budget Town Meeting will be held tonight, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. County Executive Bryan Hill and Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro will present the proposed budget and take questions from the audience. The meeting is open to the public, and I look forward to seeing you there.