What you need to know

Published 8:19 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

As Alabama’s reported cases of COVID-19 rose to more than 100 Friday, a local panel discussed the illness, symptoms, who’s at risk, what to do and more at forum at lunch time.

Andalusia Health CEO Clint Kendall was on hand at the forum and confirmed that COVID-19 tests are available at the local hospital.

“We have all the equipment we need and the support of the state to test,” he said. “(The state) is helping us work through our supply.”

Kendall said that they are testing by CDC guidelines and those who are high risk and those who have symptoms are being tested.

The biggest factor is fever.

“Don’t be surprised if you aren’t getting tested,” he said. “You will get a flu swab first. Then we’ll work toward COVID-19. You’ll get a mask first and then we’ll ask questions.”

The hospital has also established a hotline for allow the community to ask questions of health care officials rather than asking and getting wrong answers on social media.

The hotline will be manned 24/7.

That number is 334-658-4479.

Beloved Andalusia Pediatrician Dr. Charles Eldridge, who was the mastermind behind Friday’s forum gave his thoughts and directions on the virus that has consumed the world.

“Everyone is being inundated about the current crisis,” he said. “I would like to give a little synopsis about the disease.”

Eldridge explained COVID-19 is a coronavirus that affects the respiratory system.

He said that people who are in high risk must heed the precaution.

Those people include — older people, the vast majority of mortality is in people who are 70 and older; those who take immunosuppressant drugs, those with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, those who are pregnant, those who have respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD.

Another big thing Dr. E said was those who smoke cigarettes are at greater risk.

While no cases have been confirmed in Covington County, counties around or near — Butler, Montgomery, Houston, Okaloosa and Walton — have had confirmed cases.

Eldridge said it is almost a certainty that Covington County will have a case.

He said local must protect themselves from the virus.

Agreeing with CDC recommendations, he said that social distancing is the best means, which includes staying six feet apart, avoiding crowds, being in groups of 10 or less, avoiding skin-to-skin contact, no hugging or shaking hands.

Additionally, he said, wash ones hands at least 7-10 times per day.

He also encouraged locals to be kind and cooperative to friends and family who are having a difficult time.

“Be part of their solution, not part of their problem,” he said.

Additionally, Dr. E said that while the virus doesn’t effect younger people as much for the most part as older people, it’s important to remember that they can transmit it to older family and friends.

Since there are overlapping symptoms for COVID-19, sinus infections and allergies, there are a few things to remember.

In COVID-19, a fever is constant, while it may not be a high fever.

Sneezing is not a major component of COVID-19 and in a sinus infection people have different secretions, positive findings on X-rays and even pressure headaches.

Mayor Earl Johnson and County Commission Chairman Greg White also spoke. (See separate story about closures)