DOH Marion County COVID-19 update


ocala-news, ocala post, marion county news, health

OCALA, Fla.— The Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) has continued heavy activities this week as part of its response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

As part of continued local and state efforts to help the public understand, learn about, and prepare for the possibility of the COVID-19, the DOH-Marion is providing the below update and overview.

All information provided below is current as of 8 p.m. March 18, 2020; please understand that similar to many other emerging and ongoing incidents, processes and other information can change as more information is gathered and as the situation evolves.


Testing/Screening Guidelines Updated

Screening criteria have widened this week for COVID-19. If a patient is showing symptoms of acute lower respiratory illness (e.g. fever, cough, and shortness of breath) AND meets one or more of the following criteria, then a health care provider should put on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and perform testing.

  • 1. Persons who have had close contact with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case
  • 2. Persons hospitalized with acute lower respiratory illness of unknown origin
  • 3. History of travel to or from an affected geographic area with widespread community transmission
  • 4. History of international travel or a cruise
  • 5. Over the age of 65 with chronic health conditions
  • 6. Immunocompromised persons

If a patient does not meet the above criteria, testing may still occur based on the clinician’s judgment. Please see the screening criteria for full collection and testing guidelines.

While there is enough capacity to process specimens for testing in state and commercial labs, DOH-Marion has received reports from some medical providers that they have a limited number of specimen sample swabs to use in their facilities. To alleviate this issue, state emergency management provided updated guidance for nasopharyngeal specimen collection for state labs.

•Collection Swabs: Swabs from rapid flu kits can be used. These must be synthetic-made tips; cotton tips cannot be used. Also, no wood or calcium alginate shafts.
•Transfer medium: Must be 2-3ml VTM (Viral Transfer Medium) or UTM (Universal Transfer Medium), such as seen in some test kits for GC/CHL collection. Individuals should read and verify the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure it is appropriate for viral transport.

In other words, swabs from rapid flu kits can be used for collection and can be placed in the UTM from GC/CHL collection kits if it meets the above specifications. Providers who work with commercial labs should contact those labs directly to see what swabs those facilities will accept. Florida Department of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz has also ordered supplies such as N-95 masks, hand sanitizer and collection kits that are set to be distributed throughout the state.

Local Call Center Now Available 24/7

DOH-Marion has set up its own COVID-19 call center, which will be manned 24/7 to answer general questions from the public about COVID-19. The call center can be reached at 352-644-2590. Individuals can also continue to contact the statewide COVID-19 hotline 24/7 at 866-779-6121 or Health care providers should continue to call DOH epidemiology staff if they have questions on providing testing at their facility.

How COVID-19 is different from other viruses

COVID-19 is different from viruses such as the flu in three key ways according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key part of the national COVID-19 response activities. Ways that COVID-19 is different include:

  • It’s a new virus, and health experts are still learning about it and how it acts.
  • It spreads very easily among humans, different from past virus outbreaks that were more easily contained or harder to transmit and spread.
  • Morbidity and mortality are higher among more susceptible individuals (elderly and those with underlying health conditions). Fauci estimates overall morbidity and mortality to be 1% if you count all of the cases of minimally symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals along with more serious cases. In comparison, the overall mortality rate for the common flu was 0.1% per Fauci.

Social distancing measures that have included the temporary closure of schools, recommendations to cancel gatherings of more than 10 individuals and the temporary closure of bars are all ways that health officials hope to prevent the speed of the virus’ spread in the state. Preventing the speed and spread of the virus would “flatten the curve” and prevent the overwhelm of health care systems.

COVID-19 overview, symptoms, and general prevention

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus; coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals. Other coronaviruses include the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is believed to have emerged from an animal source and is now capable of spreading from person-to-person. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can mirror illnesses such as influenza. Patients with COVID-19 typically display symptoms such as fever (100.4°F or higher), cough, and/or shortness of breath within 2 to 14 days of exposure to the virus. Approximately 80% of those affected with COVID-19 report mild to moderate illness and experience a complete recovery. Some experience more severe illness. People who are more vulnerable to the illness include individuals who are over age 65 with underlying health conditions, immunocompromised, ill or have underlying chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Personal prevention measures are fundamental in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. The department recommends that individuals:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask
  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wearing a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19
  • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

Marion County, Florida

  • Cases in Marion: 0
  • Total Tested: 35
  • Negative: 24
    Positive: 0
    Pending: 11