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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely Community Health Center: The coronavirus 101

Keith Vandervort
Posted 3/25/20

ELY – A presentation on the coronavirus planned for this week by the Ely Community Health Center at Tuesday Group was cancelled, ironically, because of the quickly spreading pandemic.In fact, …

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Ely Community Health Center: The coronavirus 101


ELY – A presentation on the coronavirus planned for this week by the Ely Community Health Center at Tuesday Group was cancelled, ironically, because of the quickly spreading pandemic.
In fact, Tuesday Group gatherings, as well as many other events around the community, have been put on hold for the next several weeks or even longer out of an abundance of caution to slow the spread of the disease in the community.
Jon Erickson, executive director of the Community Health Center, provided his presentation to the Timberjay to help inform readers on this global crisis.
“I am sure most everyone has read something about the current coronavirus and how quickly this virus has been expanding throughout the world, including the United States,” Erickson said. As of early this week, there were no reported local cases of the coronavirus. “It is never to late to start our preparations should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur in the Arrowhead Region,” he said.
The Ely Community Health Center has created an email newsletter to provide the residents of Ely and the surrounding areas with timely and frequent updates on the status of the outbreak. Sign up for this newsletter at
The term “corona” is Latin for crown because “under a microscope these viruses look like a crown with spikes ending in little blobs,” Erickson said. “This coronavirus is a newly-discovered virus. It causes a disease called COVID-19.”
Last week, the World Health Organization branded COVID-19 as a pandemic rather than an epidemic. “The word epidemic isn’t necessarily always associated with a disease, virus, or other infection. When used as a noun, it means ‘a temporary prevalence of a disease’ or ‘a rapid spread or increase in the occurrence of something,’” he said.
“A pandemic is essentially an epidemic that has spread even further outside of its epicenter, but as a term, it’s more specific to a biological event,” Erickson said. “When used as a noun, the word specifically means a pandemic disease, whereas, when used as an adjective, it broadens a bit to either, prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area or simply “general [and] universal.”
He added, “If something is spreading like wildfire, it’s an epidemic. If something has already spread like wildfire and is currently massive in its reach and impact, it’s a pandemic.”
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2), renamed COVID-19, according to Erickson. “The SARS-CoV-2 virus is like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats,” he said.
COVID-19 is a lower respiratory infection that results in fever, cough and shortness of breath. “Symptoms may appear two-to-14 days after exposure,” Erickson said. “New evidence suggests that it can be up to 31 days after exposure, so we just don’t know.”
Many media reports say the symptoms are like the flu, but COVID-19 really does not result in head congestion or sneezing, he said. “The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (called community spread) in some affected geographic areas.”
How COVID-19 spreads
• Person-to-person spread- The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet), through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
• Can someone spread the virus without being sick?- People are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.
• Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects- It may be 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, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 to 30 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
• You do not need hand sanitizer. Soap and water are your best friends.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Disinfect all “high touch” surfaces you use in your house daily – this includes your mobile phone and tablets (such as touch screens).
• Disinfect any exposed fruits and vegetables that come from the grocery store or farmers market.
• Maintain a six-foot space with anyone demonstrating symptoms.
• Avoid sharing personal household items.
Stop touching your face
“Whether a nervous habit or just responding to an itch, we need to work on breaking this habit to slow the spread of infection,” Erickson said.
Here are some things you can do:
• Keep a box of tissues handy.
• Use a tissue to adjust your glasses or scratch the itch.
• If you do sneeze use the tissue but use it only once and throw it away.
• Identify triggers. Compulsive behaviors can be changed with practice. Keep your hands busy. Eliminate fidgeting.
• Chill out. If your hands are clean, touching your face isn’t catastrophic.
Slowing the spread
“We cannot over-tax our health care systems and professionals, because there are only limited test kits, limited hospital beds and quarantine areas, limited and health care professionals,” Erickson said.
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 provides time to develop a viable vaccine. “Time is our friend,” Erickson said. “This is why social distancing and isolation, especially of at risk people, is so critical.”


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