Today we learned that a female Clallam County resident in her 40s with close ties to the Lower Elwha Reservation community tested positive for COVID-19. The individual has been told to self-quarantine at home and to contact her primary care physician with any concerns. The Tribe is working closely with the Clallam County Health Department to identify her contacts and safeguard the Lower Elwha Tribal Community.
This is not an entirely unexpected development but it certainly hits closer to home when it is someone who has interaction with our community. Varying emotional responses to this news are understandable, and all people process and respond differently to stress and/or the unknown.
LEKT is firm in its stance that the community needs clarity and transparency about self-isolation, quarantine, personal protection efforts, and social distancing. We know that an educated, proactive community is key to protecting public health and slowing the spread. With that being said, the following is also very true:
You could unknowingly put yourself, your friends, and family members (especially Elders) at risk if preventative measures are taken lightly.
COVID-19 has varying symptoms for different people. For some, it could be a little bit like having the flu. People might experience a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Many people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have not gotten very sick. Unfortunately, there are people we know and love who may not be as fortunate because of their personal risk factors. There are enough of those vulnerable people that if too many of them become ill with COVID-19 in a short span of time their medical needs will overwhelm our local healthcare system. This means there’s a chance they won’t have a place to be cared for, and may not get necessary treatment when they need it most. This is the scenario we have been working madly to avoid. We knew the virus might eventually get here, but if we slow the spread, we give patients who require medical attention the opportunity to receive treatment and recover before the next patient needs their bed. Of course, we don’t want anybody to be ill, but we are particularly concerned about our vulnerable population.
It’s important to remember what we’ve learned about infection control:
- Protect yourself and your family
- Stay home as much as possible. Pick one person to go out if necessary. Don’t take extras.
- Don’t invite guests to your home. They may be mildly ill and not taking it seriously enough to inform you.
- Don’t bring visitors from outside the home. Even family members can get you sick.
- Encourage your Elders to stay out of public places and assist them as needed.
- Keep Elder in-person interactions to a minimum number of people.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
- Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Keep your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. This will help keep germs out of your body.
- If you feel sick, absolutely stay home
- Just like you don’t want other people’s germs in your body, other people don’t want to get your germs either.
- If you have symptoms of any kind, stay in your room away from your family. Wipe down surfaces you are touching when coming out for bathroom breaks.
If you do get sick, it doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. People can get sick from all kinds of germs. If your symptoms become concerning, call your doctor and speak to them about whether you should be seen at your clinic. Do not go into your doctor’s office without talking to them ahead of time. You could catch something or give something!
There are many people out of school and excused from work right now. Remember that this is to stop the spread. That means doing our part to limit contact and make sure we aren’t contributing in any way to the bigger public health issue. It’s not advised that community members take this time to visit with others, meet up for playdates, or gather for social events. We want everyone to stay healthy and happy as long as possible.
We must all take COVID-19 seriously. There is no other option. We must all be diligent about slowing the spread of this disease. We have the information we need to address this responsibly. Let’s all work together to keep our healthy people healthy and our sick people well-cared for so they can become healthy again.
Attached are two notices for you to reference. They are:
- What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
These forms were created by WA State Department of Health and have very useful information. Please read them and utilize the content if needed at any point.
If you are experiencing symptoms contact the Lower Elwha Health Clinic (360-452-6252) or your doctor’s office by phone. If you are in need of additional information visit the Tribe’s website (www.elwha.org) or call the information hotline at (360) 452-8471 and press 9.