WDIY's James Johnson talks with Vicky Kistler, Director of the Allentown Health Bureau, to find out what the agency is doing to prepare for possible cases of COVID-19 in the Lehigh Valley and what steps residents can take to help.
JAMES JOHNSON: The concern for the coronavirus portrayed from media outlets has been measured to exaggerated, so where can you go to get accurate information that gives you the education you seek amid the hyperbole? For WDIY News, James Johnson reporting.
We asked Vicky Kistler, Director of the Allentown Health Bureau, to give us the straight scoop.
Is the Allentown Health Bureau tracking active cases of COVID-19?
VICKY KISTLER: Right now, we are not tracking a person of interest for the city of Allentown.
JOHNSON: Is COVID-19 and influenza the same?
KISTLER: Flu is a totally separate virus. It doesn't turn into COVID. Flu is influenza. The coronavirus is a separate strain, 19, of the coronavirus, so they're two totally different things. So flu creates symptoms, some of which are similar to those found in coronavirus.
Flu can complicate things. When a person comes into a doctor's office right now and they have an upper respiratory or a lower respiratory condition, it can create a question as to which one would it be. But they are two very distinct illnesses.
JOHNSON: How is the city of Allentown preparing?
KISTLER: The Allentown Health Bureau is trying our best to educate as many people as we can on the importance of hand washing, cough etiquette, and social distancing.
As a health department, we have been working with the C.D.C. and the Pennsylvania State Department of Health. We are now trained in the tracking system to be able to enter cases should we get them so that the count is accurate. We are learning the proper referral criteria to make sure that when a citizen calls, we're able to refer them to an area where they can be tested if they truly feel that they've had an exposure. Things like that.
JOHNSON: What does the community need to know about hygiene best practices?
KISTLER: To hand wash as often as you can and try your best to avoid touching your face so that if you touch an object that has just been touched by a person with flu or with coronavirus, that you're washing your hands and not putting yourself at risk.
We're trying to encourage people to cover their coughs and sneezes by using their elbow or their arm, not by using their hand. And to not leave dirty tissues. Not share items with others. No drinking out of each other's glasses. No sharing each other's forks. Personal items. No toothbrush sharing. Those kinds of things.
And then, social distancing is staying home when you're ill and not returning until you're fever-free. And making sure that you keep a distance between yourself and others who are sick.
JOHNSON: How are area medical facilities preparing and responding?
KISTLER: Our hospitals and our long-term care facilities, our treatment facilities, our urgi-centers are all represented in a northeast healthcare coalition taskforce. And that coalition has frequent conference calls when we don't have coronavirus talking about how we work together to combat anything from influenza to, in the past, we did SARS, to, you know, any widespread illness or outbreak. Anything really medical-related, certainly if we start getting cases in this area, those conversations might occur more frequently.
JOHNSON: Where can residents find more information?
KISTLER: There are fantastic, very detailed, very good instructive documents on cdc.gov. And it's literally c-d-c dot g-o-v. There are instructions for businesses, for healthcare workers, for travelers, for schools. Any topic that you need or any question you have, that would be, in my mind, our best source of information.
What I caution people about is reading and then taking as fact online comments. Information from a non-reliable source.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Director Kistler, for your expertise and information. For WDIY News, James Johnson reporting.
(Original air-date: 3/5/2020)