The length of the coronavirus plaguing the United States of America has taken a toll on many people, businesses and jobs.
The health department has been working to keep everyone abreast of any and all updates about the disease.
Dr. Molly O’Dell, Director of Infectious Diseases, Roanoke City & Alleghany Health Districts, sends out information often to be shared with the citizens of many counties.
“The core of the health department’s work on the COVID-19 pandemic is the epidemiological response,” she said. “This is the primary role of public health. During COVID-19, we have built out our epidemiology team and partnerships to best address the challenges presented by the coronavirus.”
She wishes to introduce their team and partners and “share a behind the scenes look at our response.”
She notes, “Initially, our health department’s epidemiologist, Hope White, was a team of one, responsible for the investigation of all infectious diseases in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.”
O’Dell’s first expansion was to bring on herself as retired former Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Director, VDH epidemiologist, Lex Gibson, and an infectious disease doctor, and Dr. Thomas Kerkering from Carilion Clinic to help lead the response. Additionally, Khristina Morgan, a southwest regional Hepatitis C epidemiologist, was able to shift to assist with the COVID-19 efforts as well.
“As the cases in the health district grew, it became clear that the important work of case investigation, contact tracing, and providing guidance to partners would require a more robust team,” she explained. “At first, much of the work was accomplished through a partnership with the Near Southwest Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).”
These individuals signed up to be public health volunteers. These volunteers assisted in calling positive cases, case investigations, contact tracing, personal protective equipment distribution (PPE), and outreach.
O’Dell also shared that as funds became available from the state through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several of those individuals were brought on as staff.
Today, the team consists of the director of communicable diseases, an infectious disease doctor, five epidemiologists, 17 case investigators, eight contact tracers and one communicable disease nurse.
“Many other health department team members support our efforts,” she added. “For example, our environmental health staff investigates positive cases in our restaurants, and our nurses support testing events, outbreaks and work to distribute PPE to our healthcare partners.”
And on a more positive note, they are able to train the staff of healthcare and long-term care facilities to ensure that their teams are properly fitted for their N95 masks.
The epidemiology team members review the line list of confirmed and probable positive cases each business day.
She explained, “Cases are assigned to case investigators who connect with each positive case and identify their close contacts, as well as provide guidance. Next, contact tracers reach out to those who may have been exposed and advise about quarantine. The team is able to pull reports from the data system to analyze and identify trends. We can look at cases demographically to identify disparities, which we have seen locally in our Hispanic community.”
They are also able to identify clusters, which are several people with an illness but not yet linked by a known exposure. The goal is that these cases are investigated in the hopes of preventing or promptly responding to an outbreak.
Today’s updates of the coronavirus as of October 9 are:
Cumulative COVID-19 cases
Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts: 3496
Alleghany 1674/22 active
Roanoke City 1818/ 22 active
- Alleghany: 83
- Botetourt: 304
- Covington City: 31
- Craig: 30
- Roanoke County: 1021
- Salem: 204
- Unknown locality: 4
New cases in the last 24 hours: 27
People hospitalized with COVID-19: 39
COVID-19 related deaths: 56 (25 Alleghany District /31 Roanoke City)
Active Outbreaks of COVID-19 in RCAHD: 27
- 12 businesses
- 7 LTCF
- 4 Congregate living facilities
- 2 Restaurants
- 1 Health care facility
Situation update: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/key-measures/pandemic-metrics/
Regional metrics: For the week ending on 10/3/2020, near Southwest VA was the only region in the state with high burden, sustained transmission, with a fluctuating trend.
For questions about COVID-19, O’Dell encourages people to call 540-204-9995. “A public health professional is ready to answer the call,” she assured.