The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce hosted a zoom meeting Wednesday night with public health officials to educate the community on the coronavirus pandemic.
The panelists were Dr. Charles L. Hyman, MD of Infectious Diseases, Bassett Healthcare Network, Heidi Bond, BSN, CPH, Director of Public Health Otsego County, and Dr. Diane Georgeson, City of Oneonta Health Officer.
All of the panelists shared their insight about the pandemic and covered topics such as contact tracing, the importance of COVID-19 testing, wastewater testing and pool testing.
Dr. Hyman, started the meeting with a presentation describing coronavirus testing and antibody testing. He also touched on the importance of wearing masks.
“Wearing masks does decrease transmission," Hyman said. “It's been generally shown that where masks are consistently worn, the number of secondary cases goes down."
He says as the pandemic stretches into the fall, masks have an even greater benefit.
“We’re going to have flu season and COVId together, that’s quiet challenging so I think wearing masks is going to be very helpful at preventing influenza spread as well," Hyman said.
Bond spoke about the county's respond to positive COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Georgeson discussed efforts in wastewater and pool testing to help identify if and where the virus is prevalent in a community.
“We know that about 50 percent of people who are infected with COVID-19 will shed pieces of the virus through their GI tract," Georgeson said. "Those viral fragments are then released into the sewage which is then released into the waste water."
Georgeson says the wastewater can be analyzed to detect the amount of viral particles.
“In concept, this provides us with a tool of understanding how much virus, how much infection is present in a community without having to do individual testing," Georgeson said.
This also helps target where testing needs to be done, and that’s where pool testing comes in.
“If you have a group of a 100 or 200 hundred, what the pool testing allows you to do is group a number of tests, these are specifically saliva tests looking for the virus, so maybe 10 to 25 of these polled sampled are tested at once so that allows you to sample more tests more quickly," Georgeson said.
She says if the virus is detected, the preserved portions of individual samples are retested on their own.
These public health officials feel it's important to continue educating the community because there is still so much to learn and the circumstances surrounding the pandemic are always changing.
“There’s a lot more to be learned about this, and we’re still learning,” Georgeson said. "Nobody has all the answers, it’s going to be a lot of trial and error.”