As the coronavirus continues to spread, Horizon Public Health is continuing to work closely with healthcare providers, hospitals and community partners in its five-county region, including Douglas County.

Ann Stehn, the agency’s administrator, said Public Health is taking action to protect the public and keep the community informed. However, she is asking for the public’s help.

“I’d like to ask everyone to live your life as if COVID-19 is already in your community,” she said. “What we know right now is that even if COVID-19 has not been confirmed in your county, it’s likely there.”

She also thanked everyone in the Horizon Health communities for all their hard work on the ever-evolving coronavirus situation.

“I really don’t think any sector hasn’t been impacted by this,” she said.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

Stehn also said that it is also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. Frequent washing of your hands and cleaning frequently touched surfaces is a great way to prevent the spread, she said.

“As tough Minnesotans, we have a reputation to work hard, dig deep and don’t give up. What we need to do right now is pause, and put the health of all of us in the forefront,” Stehn said. “What we want people to do is, if you are sick including fever, cough, shortness of breath, you need to stay home. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 we all need to follow these guidelines, which most importantly is stay home if you are sick.”

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have done a great job of providing up-to-date information on their websites. Stehn said each entity also has guidance for people to protect themselves and their families during this outbreak.

Some activities to start now are:

  • Monitor local information about COVID-19 in your own community

  • Practice social distancing measures when in public and wash your hands frequently

  • Create a household plan of action in case of illness in the household or disruption of daily activities due to COVID-19 in the community

  • People who are 65 years of age and older or anyone with underlying medical conditions should stay home and avoid gatherings.

Many cases of coronavirus may have mild symptoms and people may not realize they are infected.

“Everyone should be suspected of infection,” Stehn said. “Even if you’re unlikely to get seriously ill, you still have an integral part to play. Therefore we need to presume the true extent of the disease is vastly underestimated.”

Stehn stressed that if you have respiratory symptoms, stay home and isolate yourself from household contacts and seek care by calling a health care provider first when possible.

In addition, stay home for at least seven days after illness onset and/or 72 hours fever-free (without taking fever reducing medication), whichever is longer. If you are a household member or have been in intimate contact with people who have symptoms you should limit your activities in public and monitor symptoms for 14 days after incorporating precautions at home.

MDH has two hotlines designated to address concerns operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – health questions can be directed to 800-657-3903 and school and child care questions can be directed to 800-657-3504. Horizon Public Health can be found on Facebook and more information can be found on its website horizonpublichealth.org.