Q: Where can I find information about the City of Bismarck’s Pandemic Mitigation Strategy?

 

A: Information about the strategy is located at http://www.bismarcknd.gov/BismarckStrong. This page contains a variety of resources for multiple community audiences including the full Pandemic Mitigation Strategy document, a strategy highlights document, signage for businesses and an online occupant load calculator. More content is expected to be added to the page, too, so check back for updates.

How is COVID-19 going to effect Halloween this year?

A: Halloween may look a little different this year, but it doesn’t have to be drastically so for trick or treaters. They are still able to The CDC suggests the following five ways to make trick or treating safer:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually-bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash your hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask (face covering).

One thing you may want to do is incorporate a cloth face covering as part of your costume. Get creative with it! Or, maybe this year, the most popular costume will be a medical professional – that isn’t bad either! However, please note that a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth face covering. Masks should not be worn by children under the age of 2. And remember to bring the hand sanitizer if you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water. If touching many frequently-touched surfaces, be sure to liberally use sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol content.

As is the case with all Halloween goodies, be sure to inspect everything before giving it to children to eat. While some people may not like the idea of wiping down each individual piece of candy, before giving it to their child(ren), doing this also ensures that you are examining candy for things like sharp objects that may have been placed in candy. No one likes to think that someone out there would want to hurt a child, but the reality is, it can – and does – happen. Either way, by cleaning candy or simply by inspecting it, make no assumptions about the candy before giving it to your children.

Any large gatherings pose an inherent risk that has become part of so many activities in 2020. This year’s outdoor Halloween activities might end up being more effected by weather than by COVID-19. It has been a cold end to October and Halloween night is projected to be windy and cold. And so, some of the outdoor activities, which may be safer environments, may be less enjoyable because of the temperatures projected in the 20s and 30s as day transitions to night.

But there are still things you can do as a family:

  • Go driving through the community looking at Halloween decorations.
  • Arranging a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt in your back yard or home.
  • Find a scary movie or two on TV or your preferred streaming service. Or better yet, come up with your own scary ideas and use your phone to make your own family scenes.
  • Design a scary scene in your front yard. If you incorporate a jack-o-lantern into your decorum, be sure to use battery-operated lights, and not lit candles.

For more information, visit these online sources:

Q: I have heard some people suggest herd immunity can be achieved if we all get exposed to COVID-19. Is this something that can be helpful?

A: Herd immunity, or community immunity, is defined by the Center for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/terms/glossary.html) as, “A situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community. Also known as herd immunity.” Essentially herd immunity is what happens when a disease runs out of people that are susceptible.

However, at this point in the pandemic response, it is challenging to assume anything about COVID-19, because the world is learning more about it every day. Long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection are still mostly unknown. Additionally, according to Mayo Clinic, (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/herd-immunity-and-coronavirus/art-20486808) it is not clear if infection with the COVID-19 virus means a person is immune to future infections. Recently, stories (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54512034 and https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/10/12/922980490/scientists-confirm-nevada-man-was-infected-twice-with-coronavirus)  have been published reporting about individuals becoming infected with COVID-19 more than once. If it is possible for people to be infected multiple times with COVID-19, herd immunity may not be possible long-term due to availability of people that are susceptible.

Some in the medical community are against the notion of herd immunity because it eliminates prevention of a disease. Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, the director for Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and a lead COVID-19 modeler, described herd immunity: “As a strategy, it simply means letting an awful lot of people die because we let the virus spread through the whole population, and it’s not really a strategy at all.” (http://www.healthdata.org/video/covid-19-myth-herd-immunity?fbclid=IwAR3rxptFGmLWdIz99WLexoRgjaGCOQ2S1_90ThUcaYfQaeIeZYsbaQ9llOg)

According to an article in The Lancet (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31924-3/fulltext), “Studies in June and July cast doubt on prospects for herd immunity: despite months of exposure, antibody surveys found a low seroprevalence, less than 10%, in cities in Spain and Switzerland. Commentators in The Lancet concluded that ‘in light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable.’”

In a recent Associated Press article (https://bismarcktribune.com/news/national/un-warns-against-pursuing-herd-immunity-to-stop-coronavirus/article_201e45b2-9865-586a-8b45-dbd1cbb31712.html) the head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the pandemic, dismissing such proposals as “simply unethical.”

At a media briefing Monday, WHO director, General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from a highly infectious disease, such as measles, for example, about 95% of the population much be immunized.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said.

In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, to reduce the risk of infection individuals must follow the universal precautions that have been in place through much of the pandemic response:

  • Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with anyone who is sick or has COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Stay home and/or keep distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.
  • If it is difficult to avoid close contact with other individuals, wear a face covering.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.
  • Avoid touching your T-Zone (eyes, nose, mouth).
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, counters, electronics, etc.) frequently.

Q: I’ve been tested, now what?

This information is provided by the North Dakota Department of Health

A: Following testing, you should monitor your health. Your next steps are dependent on your specific situation:

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea) and are waiting for your test result, you need to isolate at home away from others.
  • If you are NOT a close contact, don’t have symptoms and are being tested for COVID-19, you need to practice physical distancing, and it is recommended that you take precautions such as mask wearing when you are at work or in public places.
  • If you have been identified by public health as a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you need to quarantine at home for 14 days from the last time you were exposed.

When you receive your COVID-19 testing results:

  • If you test positive, you will need to stay home for 10 days from your symptom onset or from the date of the test, if you are asymptomatic.
  • If you test positive, you need to isolate from others until:
    • You are fever-free, without using fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours AND
    • Your other symptoms have improved AND
    • It has been at least 10 days from the onset of your illness if asymptomatic, it has been 10 days since the collection date of your test.
  • If your test results are negative and you are NOT a close contact, you should continue to practice physical distancing and limit interactions as much as possible. You may participate in everyday activities (work, groceries, etc.) but should limit exposure to non-essential public gatherings/places.

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-207-2880, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, individuals seeking specific medical advice should contact their healthcare provider.

Additionally, you may want to create a list of people you have come in contact with, and places you may have visited. Waiting for your COVID-19 Test Results? Review some key steps that can help. You may also want to proactively automate this process by downloading the Care 19 Diary app to track places you have visited or the Care 19 Alert app to help track if/when you may have come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Both apps are available for Android and IOS platforms.

More information is available through the ND Department of Health.

Q: When Should I Get Tested? Should I wait until I’ve been exposed to the virus, have symptoms or ‘Just because’?

A: According to the North Dakota Department of Health the following individuals should be tested for COVID-19:

  • Individuals with symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea).
  • If you have had contact with a COVID-positive individual, testing should occur ideally 7-10 days after the last exposure or if symptoms occur. If you are asymptomatic but have had contact with an individual who has tested positive, testing is beneficial because asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus.

For more information, visit Where to get a Covid-19 Test.

These parameters for who should receive a COVID-19 test are reflected in CDC guidance. If you are unsure if you should be tested, CDC provides an online self-checker tool that may help you make decisions about when to seek testing and/or medical care.