TIOGA COUNTY - To slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID19), health care practitioners recommend following two main actions: social distancing and thorough hand washing.

First, practice the social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said James Nobles, president and CEO of the Laurel Health Centers, which operates family medicine clinics, pediatrics and specialty services throughout Tioga County. People are advised to keep a distance of six feet between themselves and others, limit physical contact such as hugging and shaking hands, and avoid crowded areas / unnecessary travel.

Second, wash your hands often for a full 20 seconds with soap and warm water.

“We should take the recommended guidelines of social distancing very seriously,” Nobles said. “It is socially irresponsible not to maintain the recommended distancing protocols. That’s what’s going to stop this and lessen the spread.”

Governor Tom Wolf has closed all non-essential, non-life-sustaining businesses, schools and public libraries; he also issued “stay at home” orders for eight counties; Tioga County is not currently one of those shelter-in-place counties, but residents are advised to stay home unless travel is necessary and to plan necessary trips to the grocery store for non-peak hours when there will be less people.

The coronavirus is spread by droplets from person to person, Nobles said. Some people have few or no symptoms (asymptomatic), while others experience severe symptoms, complications and even death. Symptoms include: a fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea, which can appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure.

If you exhibit symptoms, call your health care provider for direction. “Patients with COVID-19 symptoms or concerns are advised to always call ahead to their doctor, clinic or ER first. Simply showing up and walking in can expose other patients and staff. Patients can be screened over the phone and directed for testing as appropriate.”

Hand washing, as well as regularly disinfecting commonly touched household surfaces and items like countertops, lightswitches, handles, phones and remotes plays an important role in preventing infection.

“Follow strict hygiene standards,” Nobles advised. “Wash your hands multiple times a day and hum through “Happy Brithday” twice to make sure you’re spending enough time at the sink. Wash before eating or touching your face. Wash after touching a door handle, putting away groceries, handling cash or credit cards, unpacking a delivery, and so on. When on the go, use hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol. Wipe down your shopping cart or basket with the sanitizing wipes provided at stores. Once you return home, wash your hands again.”

Although there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Tioga County as of March 25, it is likely to spread to our area, and it is essential to follow precautions, Nobles said. “The best way to keep COVID19 from becoming a serious problem in our area is for everyone to take these preventive measures seriously now and practice them daily.”

He also urges people to find ways to reduce anxiety and stay positive.

“Overwhelming anxiety and stress do not make us better prepared. We need to care for ourselves emotionally and mentally, too,” Nobles said. “Get enough sleep. Stay informed but not glued to COVID19 news, and use technology to stay in touch while keeping others safe.

If you’re having trouble coping, a professional can help. Laurel Behavioral Health offers teleappointments to help patients learn healthy ways to handle stress, uncertainity and anxiety.”

For more information about prevention and the latest COVID19 news, visit the Laurel Health Centers at laurelhc.org and facebook.com/laurehc. To make an appointment at Laurel Behavioral Health, call 570-723-0620.