DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – “There are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Dallas county.”
Those words today were attributed to a long list of elected and local leaders in Dallas county walking a fine line between urging the community to be prepared and tamping down panic.
It’s a situation that became more critical after rumors spread that a Dallas County jail inmate was exposed.
“The Governor’s office, Texas Commission on Jail Standards, I heard from the executive director this morning,” says Commissioner John Wiley Price, his annoyance obvious. “There is no coronavirus in the Dallas County Jail!”
According to county officials, a 24 year old man arrested for family violence Sunday, during check-in announced that he had recently traveled to Japan. It was an admission that County Commissioners openly suggested might have been a deliberate attempt to get a trip to the county hospital rather than to jail. Nevertheless, additional precautions were taken.
According to a statement from Dallas Police, “…all five officers that came in contact with the arrested person were notified of potential exposure… given a day off for precautionary reasons. Marked squad cars were immediately removed from service for cleaning.”
Meanwhile, “we’ve been in a containment mode,” says Dr. Phil Huang, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, “but, at some point if there is more person to person spread, we will change to that mitigation mode– trying to get everyone to be prepared for whatever level of response we may need.”
The quiet reality is that in spite of containment efforts around the country, the highly contagious virus has been detected in patients who have not traveled outside of the country. So that means coronavirus is just a plane ride, or road trip away.
“I think the best way to prevent and not psych yourself about coronavirus? Good hand hygiene,” insists Loren Vanderford in Dallas, today– one of several North Texans who insist that they’re keeping the threat in perspective. “Going about life,” adds Devalery Guillory. Although he admits that his attitude could change if the disease becomes widespread.
“It’s not a time to panic,” shared Dr. Huang at a Dallas County Commissioner’s Court briefing today; “but, it is a time to be preparing.”
Part of that preparation includes the ability to test for the coronavirus locally. According to Dr. Huang, that could happen as early as this week. A measure deemed necessary because “we anticipate that we will get cases here,” says Dr. Huang without fanfare.
So before that happens, local leaders are encouraging families to plan.
For example: What are your employer’s leave policies?
-Is telecommuting an option?
-If schools close, who will care for school aged children?
-Practice prevention now: good hygiene– like frequent hand washing, and staying home if you’re sick
-Seek information from reputable sources
“People today rely on the internet and the internet would be as wrong as my Mother would say, two left shoes,” adds Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. “I need to be able to disseminate information in a way that is clear and concise from an authority with regards to what is going on in the community… and that was my challenge to the health department.”
Health department officials add that they are monitoring recent travelers from China and working with community partners to help encourage healthy habits now.