Coronavirus hits close to home

Postponements, cancelations and closings are happening all over the US as the death toll from the Little Corona Virus, which causes COVID-19, has climbed to 100, one death as close as Louisiana. Monticellonians and Drew County citizens joined the rest of the nation last week as local nursing homes began limiting visitors, schools closed, doctors' offices began practicing telemedicine and Drew Memorial Health System joining the nursing homes in screening anyone who enters the hospital with visitors being limited to caretakers of those in the hospital. 

Monticello CIty Hall and Drew County have closed their doors, with employees still at work but doing all business on line or over the phone, churches have canceled services and events and the Southeast Arkansas Regional Library Monticello Branch has closed through at least Spring Break. 

With the first known case of Corona Virus in Arkansas arriving just miles from Drew County at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff. 

Throughout the outbreak a balance of precaution, along with a directive not to panic has been the main message with grocery stores, even in Monticello, operating with near empty shelves. Walmart has now changed hours of operation and are now closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice. In a statement made by Walmart headquarters, the chain stated they had stepped up sanitation measures by using sanitizing solution in "high-touch, high-traffic" areas, as well as keeping the stores stocked and prices fair, directing employees who do not feel well to stay at home and reminding patrons they can also shop at home and use store pick up options. 

Other local stores have limited the amount of certain products one customer can purchase and have also increased sanitation in their buildings. 

Meanwhile, Community Health Centers of Arkansas, along with the National Association of Community Health Centers, has asked the United States Congress for more help in fighting the Corona Virus. In a letter sent to leaders in the Senate and the House, NACHC expressed graditude over the $100 million for health centers to prevent, prepare for and respond to the Coronavirus but asked that the following priorities be considered when Congress considers a health care stimulus program. 

-   Stabilize the Community Health Centers and critically related programs.

- Expand the CHC program to serve 10 million additional people.

- Grow the essential clinical workforce serving in underserved communities by more that 34,000 additional providers per year

- Infrastructure and improved access, especially since telemedicine is playing such a frontline role in the Coronavirus outbreak.

-Coronavirus immediate needs and other emergency preparedness. The initial $100 million provided by congress only averaged out to $8,000 per health center site. They are now asking for a $1 billion annual fund to "adequately prepare for emerging threats such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks and other future crisis. Along with an "immediate injection of $320 million needed to address the staff, supply and other need to address the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The letter sent to Senator Boozeman's office by the CHC of Arkansas informed Boozeman of the more than 220,000 patients served in Arkansas in 2019 and expect the number to grow. 

"We urgently need funds for ventilators, respirators, protective gear for our staff, testing capacity expansion, capital needs to construct for isolation wards and other areas to care for the expected rush on health care institutions," said the letter, "IT system are in a major need of upgrades, especially with the greater reliance on tele health the Coronavirus requires.

"Also, our funding is set to run out May 22," the letter read. " 

With President Donald Trump stating the outbreak could last through August, the Community Health Centers are pushing for future funding to be approved.

Mainline is a member of the CHCA. 

In the meantime, Monticellonians are in a state of wait and see as communities wait on further guidance and to see how badly the community will be effected. 

Slowing the spread of the virus is the main goal of measures currently being taken, according to a Center for Disease Control pandemic plan updated in 2017 for the influenza, which the CDC recommends municipalities and governments follow.

"When a pandemic emerges, the most effective counter measure -  a vaccine against the new pandemic virus - may not be widely available for up to six months and may not be produced in sufficient quantities to immunize all risk groups for six to 1o months," the plan states. "A comprehensive community strategy for mitigating the impact of a pandemic, must therefore, address not only medical countermeasures, but also non pharmaceutical interventions, out first line of defense at the earliest stages of a pandemic."

As such, Trump has released "The President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America. 15 days to slow the spread which is as follows;

-Listen to and follow the directions of state and local authorities

- If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider. In Drew County residents are directed not go to the hospital or to your primary care physician office, call and they will direct you on what you should do next.

- If your children are sick. Keep them home. DO not send them to school. Contact your medical provider.

-If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Contact your medical provider.

-If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people. 

- If you are a person with a serious underlying heath condition that can put you at increased rid (example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay at home and away from other people.

Do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Even if you are young, or are otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. It is critical that you so your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

- Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible. 

- If your work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services, pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal schedule. You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protract your health at work.

Avoid Scoial gathering in groups of more that 10 people. 

Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restraints and food courts - Use drive-thru, pickup or delivery options. 

Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits.

Do not visit nursing homes, retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance. 

Practice good Hygiene:

- Wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface.

- Avoid touching your face

- Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow

- Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible. 

NPIs are meant to slow the spread of the disease so the most susceptible will not overwhelm the medical community all at once, as it did in France. 

In Drew County, the Quorum Court this week passed an ordnance through a teleconference style meeting that allows county employees to stay at home if they are sick or told to self-isolate. The ordnance would insure that employees will not come to work, if they are sick or have a sick dependent, due to financial reasons. 

Monticello Mayor Paige Chase released a statement on Monday concerning the pandemic.

"I understand the frustration that everyone feels dealing with Covid19 virus. My family and I are having some of the very same frustrations," Chase said.

"I hope you all understand the seriousness of our nations situation. The healthy are not at the most risk. Our elderly, very young, and our friends and family who have underlying health conditions ARE at risk. There are also many of us with UNDIAGNOSED health conditions who are at risk and aren’t aware. 

"Social distancing is an attempt to seriously reduce the number of new cases. If this works, our health care system should be able treat patients who are diagnosed with Covid19 AND those who have other diagnoses not related to COVID19. It is highly contagious and the only known cure is to NOT contract the virus. The only way to NOT contract this virus is to STAY AWAY FROM OTHERS. Our local health care providers,  our hospital, and many of our industries here in town are taking measures to reduce exposure for their employees AND their customers. 

"I am not afraid neither are my family members, but we are greatly reducing the contact we have with others. 

"The city will continue to work to provide all the necessary services we provide to our citizens. I ask that you please reduce your contact with our employees so they remain healthy. 

"City Hall will be closed to public traffic until further notice. Please place ALL water payments in the receptacle on Gaines St in front of City Hall until further notice. You may also pay your water bill by going to our website,, or by calling our phone number 870-367-4400. 

"Permitting can be done over the phone. Our phone number is 870-367-4400. We can and will fill out your permit over the phone and will do the same w your payment. Our Fire Marshall will continue to work as will all of our City employees," the statement concluded. 

As the spread of the virus continues across the United Staes with most states seeing cases already, citizens are asked to come together to help slow the spread and fight a common enemy together. 

Check out the Advance website for the latest local news as the situation develops. Look for the COVID-19 tab for a quick look at any new updates or information as it becomes available. 

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