Fist bumps instead of handshakes can go a long way in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, officially referred to as COVID-19.

That’s one of the commonsense practices mentioned during a special-called emergency meeting, held by the Harrison County Commissioners Court on Wednesday in efforts to shed some light on preventative measures related to the disease.

“This is not meant to be an alarm, but an assurance, as a community, we’ll be working together diligently to prevent and/or contain the virus,” said Harrison County Judge Chad Sims.

“The good news is we don’t have any confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus here in Harrison County,” he said. “With your help, we’ll keep it that way.”

The county judge said the meeting was not in response to Tuesday’s confirmation of a case in neighboring Gregg County, but certainly made it even more significant.

“Mr. [Brett] Kinman from Christus had suggested that we get out in front of the public and talk about what we’ll do and how we’re working together,” he said. “So this was planned really before there was any notice of that confirmed case.”

The meeting was attended by both city and county elected and emergency officials.

Sims said there has been a concerted effort between Harrison County, the city of Marshall, the Marshall-Harrison County Health District, Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center-Marshall and other local authorities and health officials to highlight prevention measures.

The Harrison County Extension Agency also held a recent meeting regarding the virus, in conjunction with their Heart Healthy Month program, as a means to share information.

Sims also met with Jennifer Hancock with Marshall/Harrison County Health District on Tuesday along with Brett Kinman, administrator of CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Medical Center – Marshall, in preparation for Wednesday.

“Ms. Hancock had mentioned to me that there will likely be many in the United States that have the virus for only a day or two and completely recover without even knowing it,” said Sims.

“Most healthy folks with good hygiene practices should have few worries,” the county judge has been told. “Any current sickness or compromised immune systems, especially in the elderly, those are the ones we need to be on the watch for.”

Sims noted that Dr. Ricky Paul, who is the county’s health authority, has also been closely monitoring the pandemic.

“We listen in daily on the statewide conference calls. The Texas Department of State Health Services has those every day and they’re talking about things that are occurring all over the state,” said Sims.

He said another good resource that they’ve depended on for updates is the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

Sims said doctors he’s spoken with are all supportive of the idea that some good hygiene habits are good precautionary measures. Key personal hygiene habits include handwashing; coughing into a tissue or elbow; and avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

Shaking hands, for now, is one habit doctors advise to break, Sims said.

“It’s just something that we do and it’s something we’d like to bring some awareness to; so please quit shaking hands,” Sims urged. “Use a fist bump, closed hands, elbow bump, whatever it may be.”

Another good practice to use is using one’s knuckle to press the elevator button instead.

“That’s a great source for contamination,” said Sims. “Use a knuckle to push those buttons.”

Knuckles or elbows can also be used to open doors, he said.

For the workplace, Sims encouraged to leave the doors open.

“If you’re working at a business and you can leave your door open to your office or whatever, leave those open so people don’t have to touch those door knobs,” he said.

Using disinfectant wipes while coming and going is also a good commonsense practice, he said, as well as the 20-second hand washing recommendation. Keeping hand sanitizer handy is helpful, too.

“It’s just good commonsense to use those practices,” Judge Sims said. “So please use these prevention techniques and encourage others to do the same.

“We can slow or maybe even stop the spread of this virus with some solid, healthy habits,” he said.

He noted that the Marshall hospital also has isolation rooms available in the event of an outbreak here.

“If we have a case of the coronavirus in our county, we have protocols in place to take care of the patient,” the county judge said.

“It also should be noted that most healthy people recover fairly quickly from this,” Sims added.

Through the meeting, they hoped to calm any fears.

“While this is a serious issue, don’t become fearful,” Sims said. “Even if you have some of the identified symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) but have no known exposure (like travel to China or contact with an infected person) you are likely not a candidate even to be tested.”

He urges residents to use the tips as a guideline and treat COVID-19 as if they’re avoiding the flu. If traveling, he encouraged residents to use good judgment to help prevent an outbreak.

“If you know that you’ve been to Washington State that has a significant outbreak there or the Houston area… if you know you’ve been there and been in the vicinity of some of those folks then you should self isolate,” he said.

Other preventative tips are:

  • Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or a weakened immune system;
  • Avoid mass gatherings;
  • Work from home if possible, especially if you are sick or others may be sick at your workplace. If you think you’ve been exposed, protect your family, neighbors and others and self-isolate;
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. Contact your regular doctor first. If you think you have the coronavirus, contact your doctor on the phone prior to arrival at the doctor’s office.
  • Using the following sites: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/; https://www.mynethealth.org/services/public-emergency-preparedness/coronavirus; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. Also call Marshall-Harrison County Health District at 903-938-8338 or 1-866-310-9698.