Camden County officials from the commission and health department, school superintendents and officials, first responders and representatives of Lake Regional Health System attended the meeting held at the Camden County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon to assess the situation and coordinate a response.

Officials gathered to assess the situation and coordinate a response to developments from the spread of the coronavirus.

There are no known cases in the Lake area at this time but based on data on the virus, it is possible COVID-19 is already here. 

At least for the time being, the response for any upcoming events or gatherings will remain an individual decision. Camden County officials from the commission and health department, school superintendents and officials, first responders and representatives of Lake Regional Health System attended the meeting held at the Camden County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon.

Camden County officials were meeting in a closed session following the meeting to discuss protocols specific to the operation of the county.

"We are at a moment in time in which we can act. What act means is a very complicated word," Lake Regional CEO Dane Henry said. "There are steps we can take now as a local community. We are at a point in time in which we can make some very bold decisions that will help- even from an evidence perspective what other communities have done- to stop, mitigate or minimize the spread. I think it would be foolish not to discuss those with a high level of seriousness and to take actions accordingly."

Lake Regional Health System, along with county health departments, schools and other agencies are monitoring the spread of the virus through the Center for Disease Control. On Wednesday, the state of Missouri launched a 24-hour hotline staffed by medical professionals for those needing advice. People can call 877-435-8411 at any time.

The general consensus of those attending was to continue to monitor and respond as needed to the various situations that may arise. Information will be coordinated through Lake Regional and the Camden County Health Department and patience was a point of emphasis as new developments and information come to light. The situation could look much different as time goes on.

"The stats are changing so rapidly," said Bee Dampier of the Camden County Health Department, who noted that businesses may need to develop a plan of action if any employees are ill. "Working on a powerpoint for elected officials, by the time it was written and I reviewed it this morning, the numbers had already changed drastically. Don't put too much reliance on the statistics, but the information is valid."

Along with avoiding social interaction or congregation, consistent communication is just as essential.

"If we are clearing everything through the health department and we are communicating with emergency management and the hospital and the press, and that becomes our core group, we are going to be able to deal with those changes rapidly based on what the hospital is talking about, emergency management and the state, no doubt," Camden County Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty noted. "We could really deal with the fluid dynamics of this thing. I think that is the structure we need to have."

Dr. Harbaksh Sangha, Chief Medical Officer at Lake Regional Health System provided an overview of COVID-19 emphasizing the virus is new and spreads fast. Sangha described the virus as evolving and recommends avoiding social contact or congregation as the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.

As in other areas of the country, school operations have been at the center of the discussions.

At the present time, superintendents and the state would have the final call on school cancellations and school districts will coordinate closely with public health departments. One superintendent present at Thursday's meeting, Dr. Tim Hadfield of Camdenton, noted that information was already being sent out to parents as the school had been going through some flu issues already. 

"We are willing to do whatever we are mandated to do and we want to be cognizant of that, obviously. It’s just what is the right timing with that and we are worried about our children," he said. "I always think about that, too, with two hot meals a day ensured to our little ones, if they are not in school for two weeks because we get that at Christmas. You obviously have to balance that with the safety of our elderly and compromised folks, too."

If Lake Regional thinks someone may have the virus, the state will be contacted and they decide to give the test or not, but tests as of Thursday were limited. Henry said coronavirus will be treated the same as the flu or any similar condition.

"At the tip of the spear, at the moment of impact, we are going to care for that patient appropriately," Henry stated. "Ultimately it will be important for us to know whether they have coronavirus or a different virus, but as far as how we care for that patient and help them recover and return to life, we don't do it a whole lot differently. We react to the clinical condition of that patient." 

A representative of the Emergency Management Agency of Camden County noted the department has been on conference calls with Missouri Governor Mike Parsons and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). The department have been told there is $13.4 million that will be available soon for first responders to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources. Lake Regional has also been working with the Missouri Hospital Association and other entities when it comes to resources. Henry said Lake Regional is in a good position and has been proactive in making sure supply chains are stable.

Commissioner Don Williams emphasized that prevention is the most powerful tool the community can have at this time, especially before tourist season comes back into full swing.

"That is going to be a tough pill to swallow in some situations. A lot of closures and other social gatherings people are not going to be happy about," he said. "I think we are going to be in situations where we have no choice."

Takeaways from the meeting:

*Incubation period is 7 to 14 days and symptoms can be very mild. Those 14 days have the highest risk of exposure and it is important that a person have a normal temperature for 24 hours without the aid of medicine before returning to normal activity.

•According to Dr. Sangha, epidemiologists say 45 to 60 percent of the US population could potentially be infected.

•The virus can spread through droplets by coming within about six feet of people who sneeze or cough and it can also be spread by touching infected areas. It is not currently known how long the virus can survive outside the body, but Sangha said it could be a few hours.

•There is no specific treatment, which is the case with most viruses, but they are time limited.

•Social isolation is the best preventative measure.

•Mortality rate higher than the flu but lower than SARS, MERS and Ebola

•The virus is still evolving and has a mortality rate at 1 percent. By comparison, the flu killed 80,000 in the United States last year and has a mortality rate of 1 in 1,000

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