BFHD: Social Distancing for High Risk Populations

The Benton Franklin Health District has posted this message on Social Distancing for High Risk Populations in light of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state.

Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) is working tirelessly to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community. At this time, we have no presumed or confirmed cases. We know that people are worried about this new illness. Due to the novelty of the disease, information on which to make recommendations is changing rapidly.

Prevention strategies can make a large impact in slowing the increase in cases in the short run and ultimately reducing the total number of cases.

Our recommendations are based on our best understanding of this new disease and with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Washington State Department of Health, and our colleagues at other local health agencies.

We know that COVID-19 spreads among close contacts, and that reducing close contact with others can help reduce the spread of this disease. Social Distancing is a prevention strategy used for many other illnesses.

For social distancing to be most effective, it must be combined with other illness prevention steps.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after having physical contact with others, being in public places or health care facilities, when leaving work or school and upon returning home.
  • Stay home when you are sick. It is crucial that those who are ill with fever or symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath stay home and away from others.
  • Stay away from other sick people.
  • If someone else at work is sick with a cough or cold, make this known to someone in charge so that person can be asked to leave.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw it away, and then wash your hands.
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant.

Gatherings: BFHD is recommending additional social distancing for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If your event has an intended audience of those that would be considered higher risk, we recommend cancellation of those events.

Those at higher risk include people who:

  • are over 60 years of age
  • have an underlying medical condition, like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes
  • have weakened immune systems
  • are pregnant

If you have questions about whether you or your child is at higher risk from COVID-19, ask your health care provider.

For events where the intended audience is not higher risk, BFHD is advising organizations to follow DOH’s Recommendations for Events and Public Gatherings. Currently, our Health Officer has determined our community is at moderate risk – Threshold 2.

Employers: BFHD is encouraging workplaces and businesses to provide options for their higher risk employees to work from home if possible. If they cannot work from home, employees at higher should minimize their interaction with large groups of people.

Faith Community: BFHD is recommending that our faith community partners practice social distancing during services. Refrain from hugs, handshakes, and any common vessel usage.

What’s Next: BFHD will make decisions about future measures based on active surveillance of all respiratory illness in our community. Surveillance includes monitoring community level data such as emergency department volumes, school absentee rates, respiratory illness rates in long-term care facilities, and data from Washington State’s syndromic surveillance portal.