The Health Departent held a news conference regarding the Coronavirus or COVID-19.

Lubbock City Manager Jarrett Atkinson, Director of Public Health Katherine Wells and Local Health Authority Dr. Ronald Cook discuss the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The map pictured in the background shows the location of all confirmed coronavirus cases and should be consulted when planning travel. The QR Code on the left links to the actively updated website.

Following concern over the global spread of the novel coronavirus, the City of Lubbock hosted a conference on Wednesday to update the community on steps being taken to prevent the coronavirus’ spread in Lubbock.

“As a community, we take this virus situation very seriously,” Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said. “And we didn’t wake up Monday morning and start making plans. We’re thankful that we have a group of people that plan for these types of things every day and so working with our partners, I think we’re very well prepared.”

Pope, along with Lubbock City Manager Jarrett Atkinson, Director of Public Health Katherine Wells and Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, spoke with the assembled media about the preparations made by the City of Lubbock in the event the coronavirus is confirmed in the city.

“We really closely monitor the situation that is following our long standing public health plans that have worked for us in the past, as we’ve had other disease outbreaks in our community,” Wells said.

Cook, local heath authority, reiterated the dangers of the coronavirus, especially to members of the community who are pregnant or over 60 years of age.

“So, the unique thing about this one is our immune system hasn’t seen this virus before and that’s why it’s affecting us so severely,” Cook said, “It seems to be a little more virulent, much more infectious than the flu virus and that’s why we’re seeing it bloom so rapidly across the United States and the world.”

Although a person with the coronavirus can take several days to show symptoms, Cook said. During that time frame the potential still exists for the virus to spread to others.     

“It’s anywhere from two to 14 days roughly, and we think that most of this happens, oh four to five days into it, where most people show up with this infection,” Cook said.

If someone suspects they may have the coronavirus, Cook said distance is the best precaution to take to limit exposure to others. Shortness of breath, chest pains or high fever could be symptoms of the coronavirus, but Cook said to call the doctor, rather than potentially expose others to the virus.

“And then the other thing to do is, like I said, stay at home. We call that social distancing if you’re infected,” Cook said. “We don’t want you in the clinic. We don’t want you at the hospital. We don’t want you at the mall. You should stay home with all that social distancing.”

If the coronavirus is allowed to rapidly and exponentially spread, Cook said this could cause the amount of help needed to exceed the resources available, which is why slowing the rate of infection is the primary concern.

“So, we’re not saturated yet, but we can easily be overwhelmed if we don’t slow this infection rate down,” Cook said.

In order to better prevent the spread of the virus, Cook suggested large gatherings be avoided for the time being, rather than risk the virus continuing to grow.

“So, those big gatherings, stay out of those arenas, or venues, that will help slow this virus, so we don’t spread it so fast,” Cook said. “It may require the other extreme of that is closing schools, closing businesses, limiting travel.”

In addition to limiting exposure to others, the CDC suggests frequent hand washing and limiting contact with others to decrease the chances of contracting the virus.

“So what’s best for you is to wash your hands and stay as healthy as you can. There will be tough decisions that need to be made soon,” Cook said. “In this, I mean, not everybody is happy about it, but we got to think about what’s best for individuals and our community, and all those are going to be tough decisions not made by me alone.”

Lubbock has the ability to test citizens for the coronavirus, Wells said, but to receive a test, a doctor has to approve it. Symptoms and known exposure to a confirmed case are two factors considered before a test is approved.

“We want to identify any cases early and be able to stop anybody or prevent them from infecting others,” Wells said. “So the goals of the health department are really to inform our local health care providers, so that they can identify those at greatest risk.”

For students at Texas Tech, spring break is just a few days away. While limiting travel is likely the best advice given the situation, Cook said to avoid any areas with confirmed cases of coronavirus. These areas can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website.

“We’re asking for everybody to use common sense,” Cook said. “You know I wouldn’t go to these areas that are listed on the map that have big red circles on. I know you may want to, but perhaps it’s not a great idea to do that.”

With the precautions that the city has taken, Cook said preventing the spread of the coronavirus is the best option for the sake of the community, despite the sacrifices citizens may have to make to their daily routines.

“Is this going to happen? It’s going to come to Lubbock,” Cook said. “It’s going to come. But if we can keep sick patients at home, who don’t need to be out and about and running around. Then we can (prevent the health system from getting overwhelmed).”

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