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As of Tuesday, March 31, at 5:00 PM, Phillips County still had no confirmed positive cases of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. However, the COVID-19 Task Force is jointly taking action towards preventing, planning and preparing for treating this highly infectious disease.

As cases of the virus emerge in our surrounding counties, the common goal of the task force is to protect the healthcare delivery systems so there are resources to serve all those needing medical care in our community.

Recognizing uncertainties, the task force is preparing for various scenarios. As Dr. Doak Doolittle reminded the Hospital Board of Trustees of at a recent meeting, “We have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D.”

Phillips County Health Systems (PCHS) assembled the high-level COVID-19 Task Force early in March. County healthcare and civic entities united to share information and strategies to strengthen community resiliency and to minimize health threats to Phillips County.

The task force first met March 11, 2020. Weekly meetings continue via teleconference. The medical, city and county leaders in the group have determined how to manage possible disruptions related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. They also monitor federal and state recommendations and then synchronize county responses.

Coordination has resulted in various affected agencies efforts expanding community information.

Members of the task force include: Phillips County Health Systems (Medical Director and Providers, Chief Nursing Officer, Infection Control Nurse, Pharmacy Director, Respiratory Therapy Director, Risk Manager, Rehabilitation Manager, and CEO), Phillips County Emergency Operations Center, Phillips County EMS, Phillips County Retirement Center, Logan Manor, Witmer Drug, Midwest Family Health, Hospice, Phillips County Health Department, and representatives from local government.

Patient screening and testing is available at Phillips County Health Systems (PCHS) and should soon be available at the Phillips County Health Department.

People who have identified possible symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, and travel to a known hot-spot or direct exposure to a patient with confirmed COVID-19) are asked to call the clinic (785-543-5211) or the emergency room (785-543-5226), prior to coming in. After notifying staff of possible symptoms, patients will be screened over the phone and a provider will determine if patients need to be seen in person for testing.

Most patients, even if they test positive for COVID-19, will be able to recover in isolation at home. However, severe cases with additional complications will need further treatment.

“These are trying times, but Phillips County Health Systems is your community medical provider in ordinary and difficult times,” Tara Overmiller, PCHS Strategy and Marketing Director and COVID-19 Task Force Public Information Officer, said. “We are working around the clock, and our excellent doctors, medical providers, nurses and administrators are diligently keeping up to date with best-practice guidelines and coming up with solutions.”

While no positive cases have been identified, this is a highly contagious disease. The COVID-19 Task Force is asking individuals, businesses and organizations to take all available precautions. Healthy people may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. People who are immunocompromised, have pre-existing health conditions, or are older with more fragile health will be most severely impacted.

“The best possible thing we can do as a community is to make every effort to slow the spread of disease to allow our healthcare systems to be able to handle this epidemic,” Pete Rogers, Phillips County Health Officer, said.

Worldwide, it has been demonstrated that if the infection is not contained, whole communities suffer because of overwhelmed healthcare facilities. In Europe and Asia, hospitals and clinics quickly encountered shortages of personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, hospital beds or intensive care unit space, ventilators and treatments available for those affected.

Locally, Phillips County is following direction from the Kansas Department of Health and asking members of the community to:

  • Stay home – especially if you are sick

  • Practice social distancing – keeping a distance of 6 feet between persons, and limit unnecessary contact with others outside of home or work

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

  • Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily

  • Call your healthcare provider if you feel you need to be seen

Training is being conducted for anyone involved with community healthcare, and weekly meetings of the COVID-19 Task Force are ongoing until the pandemic is controlled.

“We appreciate how seriously most of our area is taking COVID-19 precautions,” Rogers said.

If you have questions or concerns regarding COVID-19, please call the Phillips County Emergency Operations Center at 785-453-7155.

If you have symptoms or feel you need to seek medical care for potential COVID-19, please call the Phillips County Medical Clinic (785-543-5211) or the Phillips County Health Department (785-540-4350) during their business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After business hours, call the Phillips County Hospital (785-543-5226).

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