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The Huntington County Department of Health announced the first positive case of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Huntington County Thursday evening.

The patient is self-isolating at home; however, no further information about the patient was released due to privacy laws.

The Huntington County Health Department says they are working closely with the local and state officials to ensure that contacts of the patient are identified and monitored and that all infection control protocols are being followed.

“We are in constant contact with the long term care facilities in the area as well as the infection prevention teams at the hospitals in the area,” said Huntington County Department of Health nurse Emily Schamehorn. “We are working in conjunction to be sure that the proper tests are being given to the people at the highest risk for developing severe complications.”

According to Schamehorn, not everybody will get tested because there is a very short supply of PPE (personal protective equipment), and equipment that is required to run a specimen for COVID-19 (swabs and reagent for the test).

“If somebody has symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), they need to self-isolate inside of their home away from other people,” Schamehorn said. “They should also call their healthcare provider. Their healthcare provider will determine whether or not they should be tested.”

Health officials are asking those who think they are experiencing symptoms to take extra precaution and follow steps when seeking care.

“If they are having severe symptoms and they feel as though they need to be seen at an ER or walk in clinic, they need to call that facility before they seek medical care,” said Schamehorn. “They should indicate what symptoms they are having so that the proper infection prevention practices can be used by staff and for the sake of the other patients in that facility. If they are calling 911, they should also indicate what symptoms they are having when they are talking to dispatch so that the first responders may take the proper infection prevention precautions.”

Those at highest risk include patients over age 60, those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes or people with other immunocompromising conditions. Schamehorn says those who are at the front lines of our healthcare system including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, EMTs, paramedics, and first responders are being tested accordingly.

“We need our healthcare workers and first responders to be healthy,” Schamehorn said. “They are the ones who take care of us in our time of need and if we do not have enough healthcare workers and first responders to care for the sick, our healthcare infrastructure will crumble and the sick will suffer even more and more people are likely to die. The other reason that healthcare workers and first responders are important to test is because they frequently come into contact with many members of the community.”

Schamehorn says healthcare workers need to make sure they adhere to the proper self-isolation and quarantine procedures for the sake of the general public and the other immunocompromised people that healthcare workers come into constant contact with.

“I want Huntington residents to know that we’re all in this together,” Huntington Mayor Richard Strick said. “We aren’t the first generation of Americans to face a global pandemic, but it’s the first time this generation of Americans has faced a public health emergency of this magnitude. It’s going to take all of us keeping our heads about us and following the directions from public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 and buy our hospitals the time they need to care for the most vulnerable among us.”

Many residents have asked about the number of COVID-19 tests being issued in Huntington County, but the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) told The Herald-Press only the confirmed cases and deaths are reported on an individual county basis. The number of tests taken in the state overall, however, are reported daily by ISDH.

“More tests are being sent in through healthcare providers and the hospital every day,” Schamehorn said. “The Huntington County Health Department is only notified when there is a positive result.”

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb issued a public health emergency declaration that calls on state agencies to continue their diligence and cooperation in responding to COVID-19 and ensures that Indiana can seek funding to control and stop the spread of coronavirus. The declaration is posted at www.in.gov/. The governor has also issued additional steps to protect the public from COVID-19.

Health officials say that residents need to continue to take this highly contagious virus seriously, but should realize that 80 percent of COVID-19 patients have mild symptoms and recover.

According to government health officials:

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing;

Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;

Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands; and

Rarely, fecal contamination.

The best way to protect yourself from any respiratory illness, including the flu, is to:

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with people who are sick.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms to protect others from the risk of infection.

The Herald-Press will provide updates as new information becomes available. Visit the ISDH website at https://coronavirus.IN.gov for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Indiana.