Paden resident quarantines self after trip to South Korea
By Ken Childers
An Okfuskee County woman has voluntarily quarantined herself after spending a week in South Korea, where thousands of coronavirus cases have been confirmed.
Mary Newport of Paden reportedly took a job teaching English to children in Seoul, South Korea. When Newport left Oklahoma on Feb. 20, she planned on staying abroad for one year, but returned home after only eight days as coronavirus cases began to multiply rapidly. The school she had landed the job with ended up shutting down for two weeks.
Newport told reporters she wore a mask during her flight home and was checked out “several times” by airline staff. Although she reported that she “feels fine,” Newport plans on staying quarantined in her home in Paden for two weeks as a precaution and advises her fellow Oklahomans to guard against the virus by washing their hands.
This week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared “war” on the novel coronavirus after the country has recorded more than 5,000 confirmed cases and more than 30 deaths. According to the most recent reports from the region, at least 125,000 people have been tested and 31 have died from the virus.
Moon ordered all government organizations to switch to “24-hour emergency situation room system” and emphasized the importance of each ministry to strengthen its emergency response stance on quarantine measures.
Last Thursday, the government began restricting exports of face masks to less than 10% of those produced and required that manufacturers supply more than half of the masks made to government-designated sellers. Citizens were frustrated by dwindling supplies and slow distribution methods, with many people forced to stand in long lines at post offices, pharmacies and government-run retail stores. Moon has apologized to the public over the government’s handling of face masks.
According to a press release from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 (or “coronavirus”) in Oklahoma, but two cases are being investigated. A person under investigation does not represent a case of novel coronavirus, officials say.
The OSDH says it expects to soon have the capability to test for COVID-19 at the agency’s public health laboratory, currently the only laboratory in the state approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct testing.
Having the capability to test in state will reduce the amount of time it takes to receive test results for a person under investigation for COVID-19. Currently, all specimens in Oklahoma are being sent to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Local testing will allow public health officials to quickly determine a negative test result. A positive test result will be forwarded to CDC for final confirmation.
“The OSDH is always investing in our communities and working with our preparedness partners statewide to protect and improve the health of Oklahomans,” said Commissioner of Health Gary Cox.
There is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. However, like any other respiratory illness, the public can protect themselves with frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; and staying home when sick.
Individuals who have recently traveled through an area affected by the outbreak are encouraged to self-report to a health care provider or to the OSDH by calling the Acute Disease Service at (405) 271-4060 if they begin to experience symptoms.
Coronavirus.health.ok.gov is a source for regularly updated information. The OSDH will also soon be activating a call center for questions and information on COVID-19.