POINT PLEASANT — Mason County 911 and EMS Director Dennis Zimmerman spoke to the Register about steps the community can take to reduce their risk of COVID-19 and how the 9-1-1 and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) centers are preparing.
Zimmerman said it is important to follow the guidelines set and suggested by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States president and West Virginia governor. The main suggestion, Zimmerman said, is to take 15 days to stay out of public spaces to slow the spread of COVID-19 — otherwise known as social distancing. Zimmerman said this can prevent the “tidal wave,” or spike in cases, that COVID-19 has brought to other countries throughout the world.
If you feel sick or have symptoms — dry cough, fever, shortness of breath — Zimmerman suggests calling your doctor first. If you are very sick, call 9-1-1.
Zimmerman said along with social distancing, it’s important to wash your hands, which he said cannot be done enough during this time, stay hydrated and help the elderly and others at risk by safely bringing them groceries and medications they may need.
“Stay hydrated, and keep those mucus membranes wet — in other words, try to sip water every 15 minutes,” Zimmerman said. “Don’t ever let it get to where you have a dry mouth, because when the mucus membranes dry out, that’s when we will inhale it (viruses) into our lungs. If they stay wet, it usually goes into our stomach where the virus and bacteria doesn’t have as good a chance to grow and multiply.”
Zimmerman also said there are over 5,000 residents in Mason County that are over 65 years old. Many of those may be at a higher risk of contacting the disease. Zimmerman suggested bringing groceries to those who should not go out of the house during this time.
“I don’t think it’s a reason for people to panic, but it’s definitely a reason for people to need to be concerned and to follow the guidelines,” Zimmerman said. “This is an incident that nobody in our lifetimes have seen. The last time the United States, or even the world, had a worldwide pandemic was 102 years ago.”
Zimmerman said the 911 and EMS centers are prepared and “all hands on deck” for any possible COVID-19 cases. Many departments and hospitals in the country are worried about shortages of supplies, but Zimmerman said they were preparing for this in January and believes they will have enough for at least a couple months.
Zimmerman said his employees are prepared and are trained on how to handle bacterial and viral situations. He also said some of the staff, who have the ability, are working from home in an effort to implement social distancing.
When 9-1-1 gets a call, they ask questions to screen patients who may have symptoms, which allows the EMS employees to be prepared when responding to the call.
Zimmerman also said they have plans to supplement employees with fire department personnel. Zimmerman said some EMS departments in the country are isolating crews after some have contracted the disease. The local fire department personnel can drive the ambulance if they are needed.
“I think we’re very well prepared for anything that’s thrown at us,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said he is constantly in contact with local hospitals, as well as monitoring state and national websites to watch for trends and spikes in cases. Zimmerman said he expects more cases to be confirmed in West Virginia.
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Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.