LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — As Pennsylvania begins in-state testing for the coronavirus, medical experts are also preparing for an outbreak. Some say part of that preparation involves educating the public on the virus and trying to stop the spread of misinformation.
Armed with a sign and a medical director on a mission to inform, we walked around downtown Lancaster ready for people's questions and concerns when it comes to the novel coronavirus.
"I'm Dr. Reihart with Lancaster EMS," said Dr. Michael Reihart, medical director for Lancaster EMS. "We're out here today in Lancaster, answering questions about the coronavirus."
"People like obviously like to hype it up. Oh, they like to think, 'the next pandemic. We should all be worried,'" explained Lexie Trott of Lancaster.
Trott and her mother, Michelle, are not worried, though.
"I had the flu this year," explained Michelle Trott. "It was not fun. I don't have quite the fear of it because I know it does not have as much bearing on somebody who is healthy compared to someone who is immunocompromised or has issues that way."
"I have no concerns. I have none," said Nick Lachman of Lancaster.
Dr. Reihart says not so fast.
"When I hear no concerns, I get a little concerned because there are a couple things you should be concerned about - that is washing your hands, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, covering your mouth when you sneeze," said Dr. Reihart.
According to the doctor, those are the best things people can do to protect themselves. He says sanitizer can help too.
"Some people are making their own sanitizer which is certainly better than nothing, but commercially made sanitizer is what is recommended," explained Dr. Reihart.
What about masks?
"Maybe not the best protection," explained Dr. Reihart. "The masks we use for EMS is what is called an M95 respirator. It has very small openings so the virus can't get through there."
Dr. Reihart says those are more expensive than traditional protective masks.
Among concerns we heard, some people are also worried about traveling.
"I have had like family like planning to travel to Japan in the next couple of months, and they cancelled their plans," said Olivia Bauer of Philadelphia. "I'm not like scared or overly [panicked]."
"That is fantastic," responded Dr. Reihart. "And really common sense. Don't travel to endemic areas."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations. Entry of foreign nationals from these destinations has been suspended.
Widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission and restrictions on entry to the United States
- China (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
- Iran (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
Widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission
CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations:
- South Korea (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
- Italy (Level 3 Travel Health Notice)
Sustained (ongoing) community transmission
CDC recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel to the following destinations:
- Japan (Level 2 Travel Health Notice)
Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania and Dr. Reihart says the flu still poses a greater threat, along with other viruses.
"While we're not worried about novel coronavirus right this second, influenza, rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus they are all out there and present right now," added Dr. Reihart.
Dr. Reihart says if people think they are sick and experiencing flu-like symptoms, call a doctor ahead of time so medical professionals can have protective equipment ready to go.