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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Matt Young

Texarkana looks a lot different today on this Palm Sunday than we might have imagined. In a typical year you'd expect to see families preparing for celebrating Easter together, baseball season would be in full swing, and students and teachers would be itching for Summer break. Instead, our vocabularies have changed over the last few weeks, and we've unwillingly traded in graduations, weddings and play-offs for buzzwords like "social distancing," "executive orders" and "PPE."
This pandemic we're dealing with, COVID-19 (coronavirus), is not like any other we've experienced in modern times. As such, we have to take actions we've never dreamed were a possibility before, including staying at home to the fullest extent we're able, maintaining a social distance of at least six feet when we have to be outside our home, and avoiding gathering in groups of 10 or more. These steps can and will save lives, but we need our entire community to participate in order to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus.
Over the past three weeks I have had an exceptional opportunity to work in the Emergency Operations Center alongside professionals and local, state and national government officials with both Bowie County, Miller County, Cass County, and the cities of Texarkana, USA.
I was sworn in as the Local Health Authority shortly after the county received confirmation of the first positive case, and have been working daily with the EOC since. What a whirlwind this has been! The work being done there at the EOC is unique and completely necessary to combating this public health crisis. The personnel at the EOC works to identify positive cases, investigate potential exposures based on that positive, and prepare the community and help process information for the public as a whole.
While Miller County and Texarkana, Arkansas have transitioned into a separate EOC, we are still working daily with Arkansas officials to identify needs, share information, and protect the residents of our region.
Our community is seeing a rapid growth in numbers. On Friday, April 3, 2020, we doubled our number of positive cases in one day. While this number is alarming, it's important to remember that we have some control in this situation. Our actions can determine what happens to our community in the coming weeks.
We will continue to do what we can to serve the residents of the greater Texarkana region, and ask that you continue to wash your hands, maintain a social distance of 6 feet, avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more, and stay in your home when possible.
One encouraging note is that our local numbers have also shown at least five individuals who have tested positive for the virus, quarantined at home for the recommended time, and are now symptom free and have returned back to their normal daily routine. We are constantly working to provide as much information as possible from the EOC, and this is one of my favorite statistics to track.
From a medical point, it's important to note that it is possible for a person to have COVID-19 and not present any symptoms. However, if you are experiencing the following symptoms, please call your primary care provider and discuss your symptoms: fever (over 100.4), cough, shortness of breath, or are dehydrated. Depending on severity, the may recommend a visit, virtual visit, testing and or quarantine.
If your symptoms are severe, don't hesitate to call 911 but please notify them of your symptoms, possible exposure, and your testing status. If you don't have a primary care provider, we are getting more testing in our area, so tune in to opportunities to be tested at our local healthcare providers
We've had lots of questions coming in to the EOC. Lots of them surround what is or isn't an essential business, and while I can't speak to that, I do suggest you visit online and find a link to the Governor's orders and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
There have been a few questions that I can address, the first of which is "Can I get Coronavirus from breathing the same air as someone?" and my answer is two-fold. This is still an evolving situation, and we are still learning much about this virus and its characteristics. Right now, the medical community seems to believe that more than breathing the same air, droplets of bodily fluid are most likely to spread the virus from one human to another, so coughing, sneezing, and saliva is the most dangerous. It seems that if you are within 6 feet for greater than 10 minutes you are at the most risk. This is why social distancing is so important.
Next, I've heard "What are my chances of getting it again if I've already had it?" The answer is again, not an easy one. Until scientist have conclusive proof that you cannot be re-infected, if you've tested positive and have recovered, you should still follow the same CDC guidelines as if you had never been infected before.
Lastly, I've been asked "Should I wear a mask and gloves when I go out in public?" There's a lot of varying information floating around about this right now. President Donald Trump said Friday afternoon that it could be beneficial for Americans to wear cloth masks when they go out in public, but everyone agrees that the most important thing is that the general public leave medical grade PPE for healthcare workers and first responders. If you want to make your own mask, and wear it when you go out, that could be helpful to keep you healthy, and prevent spreading any germs to others, but mostly it's important not to deplete the supplies of the community for personal use. We continue to work on securing resources for PPE.
There are plenty of issues related to this crisis that have yet to be resolved, but the most important thing we can all do is follow the CDC's guidelines and spend at a lot of time in prayer. Now more than ever we need to pull together, do our part to stop the spread of this disease, and ensure that we can come out on the other side of this stronger and healthier than ever before.

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