Rice County Public Health Director Deb Purfeerst reported to the RIce County Board of Commissioners today even when the stay at home order is lifted social distancing will be with us for awhile.

Purfeerst told Commissioners at the end of the Governor's Stay at Home Order social distancing will not be over, "We will continue to need to work on this.  All through the summer into the fall.  My guess is there won't be a vaccine available probably until 2021.  So we're in this for the long haul.  It isn't going to go away anytime soon."

She reminded Commissioners, "We still don't have a vaccine.  We still don't have medication that's specific to this virus so we need to continue the mitigation strategies to slow down that spread.

The Rice County Health Department Director pointed out nationwide lab confirmed cases were around 5,000 three weeks ago and have ballooned to 347,000 as of yesterday according to the Centers for Disease Control.

She says in Minnesota and globally there is a shortage of tests for the virus, "Right now you would have to be sick to be tested and you would have to be someone in a congregate setting, hospitalized, a health care worker or a child care provider, over the age of 65 with underlying conditions."

Those not hospitalized are typically not tested.  Purfeerst adds, "For those who have respiratory symptoms and can manage those symptoms at home they don't need to be tested.  It's not going to change the recommendation of how they will be treated.  The recommendation is you self quarantine for 7 days after the illness or 72 hours after resolution of the fever.  Whichever is the longer."

She echoed Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn about a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment saying, "This is very concerning.  There is a significant shortage to protect our health care workers in hospitals, EMS providers, etc.  There have been a number of strategies that have come out.  Ways to conserve PPE's.  We are really in a new world this is not something we've ever been talked to about.  Historically we have always provided PPE's for our medical providers.  The messaging right now is about saving medical grade and surgical masks for people who are health care providers and EMS providers.

Purfeerst added, "This isn't something we're going to be doing for just the next week or two.  This is going to be around for awhile and we really all need to work together to make sure we are slowing down the spread otherwise our hospitals are going to be overwhelmed with the number of people coming in and needing some sort of care, and there won't be enough equipment for them if we don't flatten that curve."

The Rice County Public Health Department Director said, "Everybody has a part to play.  Whether it's individuals, whether it's businesses, schools, etc.  Staying at home and distancing is probably the number one thing we can all do and also an important thing is washing, good hand washing frequently and keeping your hands away from your face."

Purfeerst was asked for a COVID-19 update by Commissioners.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app