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Last night, the Tri-Cities’ chambers of commerce (Dover Chamber of Commerce, Falls Chamber of Commerce from Somersworth and Rochester Chamber of Commerce, aka the “Tri-Chambers”) hosted a informational session in conjunction with Strafford County Public Health network, to address concerns and share factual information about COVID-19/Coronavirus.

Key Takeaways

Some key informational takeaways and quotes from the meeting:

  • No matter what happens, it’s smart for all businesses to have a plan for Continuity of Operations (COOP), whether that’s planning for remote work/meetings, cross-training staff, etc.
  • “You cannot communicate enough in your workplace.” — Mary Kerr, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at Strafford County Public Health Network, Stewarts Ambulance
  • “For good public health, we need paid sick time off.” — Scott Schuler, Strafford County Public Health Network board member, American Ambulance
  • As of 11:30am Monday, 3/9/2020, there was no official stance on having large group gatherings (hence why this info session was still happening, and no current plans to cancel large events) — that said, it’s a very dynamic situation and local health officials / orgs (see below) should be referenced often in planning any large group gatherings/events
  • Keep track of costs! If you’re covering sick leave of your employees, federally-appropriated funds may be able to help later on — a staff person from Senator Shaheen’s office spoke to this at the meeting. Low-interest loans or other financing may be available for any costs related to this event, so keep track!
  • Coronavirus can live on surfaces for several days, and is considered airborne. Guidelines for distance of airborne contagions is 6 feet, so that’s the radius you should keep between yourself and other potentially contagious people.
  • Our first goal here is to reduce and delay the spread — see the slide below with two possible scenarios, one with a peak of diagnoses sooner, which exceeds the capacity of our healthcare networks, and one which is delayed over a longer period of time, keeping us under that critical outbreak mass. Even if you are not feeling personally at risk, take precautions to protect those around you.
  • To those comparing death totals to the common flu, it is *rates* that cause such concern with this virus — for each person who gets it, the fatality rates have been much higher than common flu so far (see slide below for breakdown by country as of the date of the presentation).

Local Health Officials & Org Links

While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should be the high-level resource for this fast-changing situation, local health officials and organizations should be reeferenced for more localized information, including recommendations on large gatherings, etc.

Below are photos from the session, with slides containing information and URLs for reference:

Scott Schuler began with a general overview of what we know so far about this virus. Below is some information on the fatality rate in particular. As Scott pointed out, data can be skewed to fit various narratives, but this is the data that public health officials are looking at.

One reason Scott mentioned that the US rate is currently so much higher than, say, South Korea, is that South Korea has invested heavily in testing, so they are catching a lot more of the cases, earlier on, and able to treat or at least track all those who have COVID-19 but recover. There are other factors, but that is one to consider — if folks aren’t being tested, the data cannot be collected.

Next, he shared recommendations directly from CDC and NH’s DHHS / NH Department of Public Health Services on what you should do if you have symptoms:

Call your doctor if you:

Promote Daily Practice of everyday Preventative Actions, including:

  • Stay home when you’re sick, except to get medial care.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, the throw away the tissue in the trash.
  • 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.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces and objects daily.

Below is the graph showing the result of an earlier outbreak, versus a delayed outbreak — the key is staying underneath that dotted line, which is the capacity of our health care networks. Exceeding our hospital/ventilator/caregiver capacity means some people aren’t going to be able to get the care they need.

Below are slides directed at small businesses, with best practices and recommendations.

A representative from Senator Shaheen’s office encourages everyone to document all business expenses and losses, since some federally-appropriated funding may be allocated to help NH small businesses.