GLOUCESTER — Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and Public Health Director Karin Carroll announce that the City of Gloucester is taking the proper precautions to prepare locally in the event a case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is identified or suspected in the community.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), the risk to residents of contracting the virus remains low, and the flu presents a higher risk to residents.
The DPH announced the state’s first case of the virus on Feb. 1, and on March 2, state officials announced a woman in her 20s is believed to have contracted the virus after visiting Italy.
“Right now, we are being proactive should a case of coronavirus be identified in the area,” said Carroll. “These steps are really no different than what we do to prepare for any other communicable viruses, like the flu. The risk of catching the coronavirus remains low and the flu remains a more prevalent concern.”
The Mayor’s COVID-19 response preparation team is being led by Carroll and the City’s Health Department, but also includes members from the Mayor’s Office, School, Police and Fire Officials, and local hospital representatives. The group is meeting frequently and is closely following recommendations from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they become available.
Additional partner agencies are expected to join these ongoing meetings to ensure all Gloucester residents, including high risk populations such as seniors, those with preexisting conditions, and so on, are part of the information sharing and planning process.
The City is also in contact with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Senator Bruce Tarr and Represenative Ann-Margaret Ferrante as they work closely with Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel.
City departments are taking a variety of proactive steps to limit the possible spread of the illness in the event it’s detected in Gloucester. Dispatcher procedures are being updated to include questions about recent international travel before relaying that information to first responders, and first responders are preparing for additional precautions to limit any potential exposure. School officials are developing a plan to allow learning to continue should schools need to temporarily close, and Public Health Nurse Kelley Hiland is prepared to perform surveillance and monitoring procedures for self-quarantined individuals according to DPH guidelines.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus appear within 2-14 days of exposure. The DPH reports that symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and pneumonia in severe cases.
Local, State and Federal Health officials are encouraging residents to take the following precautions to prevent infectious diseases, such as the flu and COVID-19, from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently, with soap and water, for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- When sick yourself, stay home to protect others.
- Always cover your cough or sneeze.
“Our Public Health Department is monitoring the situation and continues to provide guidance for everyone in Gloucester,” said Mayor Romeo Theken. “As we continue to monitor the spread elsewhere, it’s very important to remember that the risk of catching this virus remains low, but we encourage you to take the precautions we have outlined above.”
At this time, the DPH is not recommending people wear masks in public as the risk to the public remains low and there is no substantial evidence suggesting wearing a mask protects an individual outside of preventing someone from spreading a respiratory illness to others in a clinic waiting room.
Anyone who is experiencing a fever and respiratory illness and is concerned they have either come into contact with the virus or traveled to an effected country within the last 14 days is advised to contact their primary health care provider.