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La. GOHSEP: 10 frequently asked questions (and answers) about coronavirus

Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)...
Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States.(CDC)
Updated: Mar. 2, 2020 at 4:56 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Amid growing fears about COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) has released a list of ten questions frequently asked about the virus, along with answers.

GOHSEP says due to the ever-changing nature of the situation, they will continue to update the FAQs as more information is made available. The below information is current as of March 2.

A: As of March 2, 2020, there are no confirmed cases in Louisiana.

A: While the CDC now expects community spread in some parts of the U.S., the immediate threat to the U.S. remains low. We are not seeing the same level of spread other countries are seeing. That said, it’s important to be prepared, which is what we have been doing since the outbreak in mainland China.

A: COVID-19, in many ways, behaves similarly to influenza. The CDC recommends using the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness plan as the model for the response because COVID-19 in many ways behaves similarly to influenza. The Louisiana Department of Health has been working on our Pandemic Preparedness Plan for the last 15 years, and we have been preparing for COVID-19 since early January of 2020. The governor directed the formation of a COVID-19 Task Force with representation from state agencies and federal partners key to preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak to guide updating pandemic flu and continuity of operations planning documents and advise the Unified Command Group.

A: Our first priority was to ensure we were monitoring any travelers who returned to Louisiana from visiting China, where many of the cases have occurred, and especially Wuhan, the city that experienced the largest outbreak. We touch base with those travelers each day and ask about their symptoms during a 14-day period of observation. We are also ensuring that travelers know the destinations where non-essential travel should be avoided.

A: We do have the capability to test for COVID-19 in-state. Providers should contact the Office of Public Health Division’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program (IDEpi). Testing is prioritized for individuals that meet clinical and risk criteria.

A: Mirroring the federal government’s response, we are moving from a “containment” approach in which we focused on restricting travel from the outbreak area in Wuhan city and Hubei province in China and monitoring returning travelers from other parts of China, to a “mitigation” approach in which we anticipate and plan for person-to-person transmission in the community somewhere in the United States and ensure state and local governments, healthcare providers, schools, businesses, and community members are adequately prepared to take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We don’t want people to be alarmed, but we do want them to be prepared. We also want businesses and healthcare facilities to be prepared to make sure people are safe and protected so we can avoid an unnecessary spread, including planning now for actions that can be taken to avoid the spread of infections, such as mandatory teleworking and canceling unnecessary large gatherings.

A: LDH has been working with Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA) and the ESF8 Network to prepare hospitals for an outbreak to ensure they have the proper supplies needed as well as that protocols are in place for anyone treated who tests positive. We haven’t had any indication that hospitals don’t have what they need on the supply side.

A: Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low.

A: Yes. We are in very regular contact with the CDC and HHS; we’re currently averaging several calls per week just with the CDC. In addition, we have standing calls across state health departments and a standing call internally in Louisiana. This is all very important so that we all have the latest data, are on the same page, and can adapt our plans as conditions change.

A: There are actions we all can take as individuals to be prepared for COVID-19. The same actions you take to prevent the spread of flu put you in a good position for any respiratory illness: cover your mouth when you cough, wash your hands (especially after being in public spaces, shaking hands), stay home if you are sick, and get your flu shot! Individuals and families should also monitor the CDC COVID-19 website for updated travel advisories before making plans to travel internationally.

RELATED: Gov. Edwards creates coronavirus task force, says La. is prepared for possible cases

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