Important changes to coronavirus testing in Covid Update

Apr 16, 2020

On Thursday morning’s Covid Update with Kathleen Gustafson, there was news of several changes to our collective hunkered-down condition. First and foremost, the criteria needed for testing of the novel coronavirus has expanded, and tests have become more widely available.
    South Peninsula Hospital’s Derotha Ferraro explains.
    “Things have changed a lot because those symptoms have really expanded. So I'm going to quickly go over those. So if everybody wants to pay attention, these are now the symptoms that are being considered for testing. One out of cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. Just one of those or two from this very long list, fever, chills, diminished sense of smell or taste, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint aches, nausea, runny nose, phlegm production, or sore throat,” she said. “Boy, don't those all sound familiar to people. So if you're having two of those symptoms I just read, you could call your provider and be referred for testing.”
    Ferraro says this is a big change, and a reversal from before.
     “And I know that sounds a little backwards to what we were saying before, ‘Stay home and manage your symptoms.’ Yes, that's true from the perspective of going to the hospital for care, but the concept of testing is a really important step in helping the community in the state get a good picture of what's going on with Covid-19,” she said.
    Also, the great facemask urgency of last week has subsided, thanks to some timely help from the community.
    “We no longer have to do that because we are so fortunate to have a unique Homer Alaska supply chain, which was donations from Homer Electric, the college, and Spenard Builder Supply. And Spenard Builder Supply donated hundreds of extended wear respirators. And when we got those, then we were no longer as obligated to figuring out how to reuse the N95 that is specific to Covid-19 response. And so that really was a game changer for us.”
    Another change in the governor’s health care mandates is a resumption of elective surgery, according to the city’s Jennifer Carroll.
    “They're going to start allowing non-essential healthcare procedures going forward. They're going to be opening that industry,” she said. “They're trying to balance the negative outcomes that stem from us delaying our health care, our preventative health care, and at the same time, watching really closely so that we're protecting patients and health care workers from the spread.”
    She said it’s a part of Governor Duleavy’s overall plan to loosen his closure mandates on a measured basis.
    “The governor is looking at easing business restrictions in a safe and measured manner so that industry and Alaskans can get back to work. And we'll be seeing some of these announcements rolling out as we go forward,” she said. “And the reason that this is happening is that, you know, our economy is an important part of our response to Covid-19 and Alaskans are doing a really great job right now. Homer's doing a fantastic job at flattening the curve.”
    School District spokesperson Pegge Erkineff said they held a series of webinars this week for parents to help their kids with distance learning, and will hold another next week. She also said there was help here in the South Peninsula for any students currently experiencing homelessness who need to continue classes.
     “ If there's anybody that needs assistance  that's going to school, that's experiencing homelessness. We've got an outreach program all throughout the district, but in the Homer area, Jane Dunn is the go-to person for our homeless liaison. And her phone number is 235-4664, and she serves the Southern Peninsula and Ninilchik,” she said. “So if there's anybody, any students who are experiencing homelessness or families that are, (and) have students, and they want to keep those kids in school and learning, we're there for them.”
    The city’s Carroll also cleared up what is meant by “social distancing.”
    “What we mean by social distancing is to physically distance. So we're not spreading the virus. Um, social distance kind of got into the vocabulary and the catchphrase early on, but I want to encourage everyone to really stay socially connected. With their family and friends, despite our mandates to physically distance to work from home. We have a lot of technology. We have telephones to reach out and help support everybody through this challenging time.”
    As always, the City of Homer’s Covid-19 page holds a wealth of information on local resources.