There is no doubt that people working in public health are facing the challenge of a lifetime. Your public health officials are working long days, trying to learn what they can about what is still a new disease and convince people to take the risks seriously.

With more than 138,000 deaths in the U.S. and case counts rapidly rising, it is not easy to conclude that public health’s approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 is going well. As the virus moves to more states and people are impacted in more places, the pressure and the stress on public health officials continues to grow.

Throughout history there have been protests over public health practices. In the late 19th century, a group of radicals defied growing mandates to vaccinate Americans for smallpox and labeled contraceptives as obscene. In more recent times when public education campaigns in the 1980s were unsuccessful in encouraging the use of seat belts, states passed laws that mandated them and most of us certainly remember the debate surrounding Ohio’s Smoke-free Workplace Law that passed in 2006.

But anger has never been so deep in so many places as during the coronavirus pandemic. “People are enormously frustrated and angry and worn down, and so they lash out,” says Paul Offit, an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “You shoot the messenger. What you really want to shoot is the virus, but instead you shoot the people who tell you about the virus.” Local health departments have been put in the spotlight and are clearly considered the bad guys.

However, it is important to understand that prevention is at the core of public health. When there is a chance to prevent a disease, public health departments will take it. Here at the Perry County Health Department, we are continuing to repeat our same messages of prevention:

• During the time of a pandemic, wear a mask in public

• Stay social distanced from one another to prevent the spread of COVID-19

• Avoid mass gatherings

• Wash your hands more frequently than normal

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue-not your hands

• Call your physician if you are feeling ill

• Follow the guidance of your physician and health officials if you have been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive

• Plan on getting vaccinated for influenza in September or October 2020

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you healthy where you live, work and play. For more information on our programs contact us at 740-342-5179, like us on Facebook or visit our webpage at perrycountyhealth.info.

Deborah Raney is a contributor of The Perry County Tribune

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