Oneida County health looks to release local COVID-19 data
By Eileen Persike
Six people in Oneida County have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus which has spread nearly worldwide. One of those six is an employee at a Rhinelander fast-food restaurant. Its owner indicated in a press release that the restaurant is working closesly with the Oneida County Health Department. The restaurant was closed Thursday for thorough cleaning and reopened Friday.
Oneida County Public Health Director Linda Conlon said all businesses in the county know what needs to be done during this outbreak to keep everyone safe.
“We have sent information out to all our businesses about cleaning and disinfecting and sanitizing and the steps that businesses need to take to protect their workers and the public as well,” Conlon said.
According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through food or money, but hand washing before preparing and eating food is strongly recommended. When picking up food through carryout or drive through or the grocery store, before eating, Conlon said people should open their food then wash their hands with soap and water, then eat.
“People need to know that it has been identified as community spread and that means that even people who have not traveled outside our community, have not been in contact with any of the people who have tested positive that we have now, they still could become infected with COVID-19 because it’s in our community.”
Along with minimizing contact with others, staying home when possible and practicing social distancing, Conlon said it’s key that people pay attention to their own bodies and be alert to the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
“We’re in allergy season and we’ve been told by many people they just think it’s allergy-related and they don’t have severe symptoms,” Conlon said. “People need to be aware, what is their normal and what is their not-normal. If things are not normal, then they need to speak to a healthcare provider.”
The health department has been compiling data on risk factors for the individuals in the county who have contracted the virus and are working on defining “recovery” and “recovering,” regarding the status of anyone in the county who is diagnosed with the disease. While being mindful of privacy laws and releasing too much potentially identifying information, Conlon said she anticipates releasing some information in the near future.
“We still have to follow privacy laws and that’s very important to all of us,” Conlon noted. “Those laws are there for our protection and I would imagine if people put themselves in those shoes and they were the ones that tested positive, how would they feel if their information was released.”
The folks at the health department are “just trying to do our best and get everything under control, cause the least amount of damage,” and are learning something new every day, Conlon said. The word “unprecedented” is used a lot to describe the current health emergency, she acknowledged. “But in all honesty, it’s not trite, it’s true.” It’s a learning curve for the community as much as it is for the healthcare field.