COVID-19: Taking steps to minimize risk

Arkansas counties adopting procedures to keep employees, citizens safe

By Becky Comet
AAC Member Benefits Manager

The last two weeks have changed our lives forever. We have added new terms to our vocabulary like coronavirus, COVID-19, and social distancing. Many are learning how to work from home. Who knew that toilet paper and hand sanitizer would fly off store shelves? More than likely we have all washed our hands more in the last two weeks than we ever have.

In these rapidly changing times, we must stay up to date with the latest information in order to keep ourselves, our families, and our coworkers as safe and healthy as possible. Therefore, we have put together some information to aid in that effort. We hope this will help as we learn to navigate these new, uncharted waters.

The following is a list underlying health conditions with a higher-than-normal risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19. When your body is already dealing with a separate health condition, it has less energy to put toward fighting an acute infection. Consequently, we need to be more aware of people we know that fit into any of these categories. Then we can make every effort to reduce their risk in any way we possibly can.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) these at-risk people are:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or greater) or certain underlying medical conditions — particularly if not well controlled — such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease
  • People who are pregnant or have been pregnant within the last two weeks should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk
  • People with blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease or taking blood thinners
  • People with chronic kidney disease, as defined by their doctor.
  • People with compromised immune system, including undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, having received an organ or bone marrow transplant, or taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, and HIV or AIDS

At this point, our counties are working through this difficult time in the best way possible for their own situation. Coroners and law enforcement, including the sheriffs’ departments and the jails have their own specific guidelines for handling this pandemic. Road departments have their own unique situations to deal with.

Many of our courthouses are limiting access to the public in various ways. Even with limited public access, there is still staff that are in and out of the courthouse and offices. Even if you are working with limited staff, rotating scheduling, or just getting by the best way you can, we know you would like to do whatever you can to keep your work area as safe and clean as possible. We have a few suggestions that might be helpful that come from the CDC, as well as county personnel on the front lines.

In Pulaski County, Treasurer/Collector Debra Buckner let her staff know that they would need to wear work/cleaning clothes to work on a designated day. Her staff came ready to work and work they did. Armed with disinfectant and gloves, they literally got on hands and knees, moved furniture, inhaled Lysol, and gave their workspaces a complete deep cleaning. Everything that could be wiped down and disinfected was. This is something that all counties can do, if they haven’t already.

Objects and surfaces that are frequently touched should be wiped down or sprayed frequently. These include keyboards, telephones, desks, chairs and their armrests, screens that are touched, pens and pencils, handrails, counters, and doorknobs. Do not use someone else’s workstation without wiping things that you have touched when you are finished. As we practice social distancing do not forget sneezing and coughing etiquette, which means coughing or sneezing into your arm, not your hand. These are things that may or may not have been part of normal behavior in the past but will need to be from now on.

This has definitely been a stressful couple of weeks. However, when we look for the good, we can definitely find it. People of Arkansas know how to step up, pitch in, and help do what needs to be done. We will get through this if we work together and lean on each other — in a socially distant way. Stay safe and healthy.

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