GRAPHIC BY LUCA KELLEY NIELSEN
In response to pervasive fears surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health hosted a discussion on Thursday, April 30, where professionals informed the public about the virus and the necessary safety precautions everyone should follow.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Town Hall Meeting promoted community discussion and reminded the public to follow safety precautions and receive information from reliable sources.
The meeting was hosted and moderated by Yves Singletary, the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention, and featured panelists including Dr. Catherine Brown, an epidemiologist for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Dr. Caitlin Pettengill, a nurse and social scientist for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The meeting addressed some of the main concerns and misinformation regarding the virus.
Singletary said that he wanted the younger community to share their experiences and opinions with the Department of Public Health.
“The goals that we are trying to accomplish in this conversation are addressing fears and misinformation about COVID-19 and to expand your knowledge and practice public health precautions during this time,” Singletary said. “We want to hear your voices and ideas about how we should support young people better during this outbreak.”
Participants had the option to send in questions to panelists prior to the meeting or use the virtual messaging system to ask questions during the meeting.
Brown continued the community discussion by explaining the variety of symptoms a person could experience once contracting the virus, and how susceptibility to the virus can depend on medical history.
“Some of the most common symptoms people experience while combatting the virus include fever, headache, cough, chills, body aches and a lot of fatigue and tiredness,” Brown said. “People who are very overweight, or have pre-existing medical conditions such as cancer, heart failure, epilepsy, diabetes or any other long-term diseases seem to be more susceptible to getting the virus.”
Pettengill said that the Department of Public Health had recently been looking into some of the differences in symptoms children experience compared to adults.
“People that are under the age of 18 seem to experience symptoms when they get COVID-19, but they are just as susceptible to the virus as everyone else,” Pettengill said.
Pettengill said that the Department of Public Health has found children experience more skin irritation, a symptom not present in most adults.
“With COVID-19, younger people are getting rashes on their abdominal areas and lower backs that are irritated,” Pettengill said. “Younger people often lose their sense of smell and appetite, which is another really interesting symptom.”
Throughout the discussion, many participants asked how they should properly clean their surfaces and groceries when they get home, as there has not been extensive guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in regards to cleaning.
Pettengill offered some simple advice on creating your own disinfectant because many medical professionals at hospitals are experiencing a shortage in supplies.
“My strong recommendation is to take a measuring cup and fill it with two cups of water and then add a teaspoon of bleach,” Pettengill said. “This creates a ratio of 1:100 bleach and water and then you can dip in clothes you wore, wash your counters, wash your doorknobs and whatever other surfaces you touched outside or inside your home.”
Brown and Pettengill also addressed concerns about public safety and misconceptions about the spread of COVID-19.
“When people wear masks, they think they are safe and do not have to follow social distancing, but this is a huge misconception. You should always follow social distancing precautions even if you have a mask on,” Brown said.
As the meeting came to an end, one participant asked Pettengill when the spread of COVID-19 would end.
“We all want to prevent the disease and we believe a vaccine is going to be the best way to do that. There are many companies that are trying to come up with a vaccine as we speak,” Pettengill said. “Realistic estimates for a vaccine available to the public would be in the middle of next year, but it is possible it could come out earlier.”