Health Board briefed on COVID-19 study

Friday, June 26, 2020

by Chris Allen

Staff Writer

During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Saline County had the highest infection rate in Missouri. Now it may be among the lowest.

While the battle against COVID-19 is ongoing, no new cases have been reported in the county since June 19, Saline County Health Department Administrator Tara Brewer told the Board of Trustees during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

“Our numbers have been really good,” Brewer said. There are only 13 active cases and one patient currently hospitalized, but recovering. “I can’t say enough for the entire staff. How phenomenal they’ve been and worked through this.”

Brewer didn’t declare victory against the pandemic, however, saying “COVID has done nothing but overwhelm us. I can’t figure out what to do next.”

“Uncharted territory” is how board member Joby Raines described it.

Amidst uncertainty, the board took concrete steps to deal with a resurgence or second wave of the virus. Using money from the CARES Act, the agency will purchase a 200-square-foot utility shed from Everything A To Z in Marshall for $4,127 to store supplies for future needs, including personal protective equipment.

Brewer also recommend purchasing iPads and cell phones for nurses and key department staff to improve communications and using a badging system for quickly identifying essential personnel.

Prior to regular business, the board was briefed on a possible preventive for the disease being studied by the University of Kentucky using a Povidone-Iodine solution, which can be applied through nasal spraying and gargling.

The trial is the first in the country to study iodine as a prevention measure in people who are not COVID-positive.

“Given that health care workers and inpatients are at high risk for contracting SARS-CoV2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, we are assessing the efficacy of a specific nasal and oral preparation to prevent the spread and contracting of infection,” said ​Dr. Alexandra Kejner, assistant professor in the UK Department of Otolaryngology, principle investigator for the study. “Povidone iodine—in the specific concentration and preparation we are studying—has been shown to be safe, well-tolerated and to have efficacy against SARS and MERS.”

Retired pharmacist and Saline County resident Bill Caviness said this had the potential to prevent the spread of the virus. While iodine cannot be safely ingested directly, povidone “captures iodine and releases it once into the body.” He said two local doctors are willing to help in conducting the study, of which Caviness is a participant.

“There’s been so much false information out there, it (would) be hard for anyone to accept,” Caviness said, adding that it has a low medicinal cost. He had two attendees apply the treatment, neither indicating unpleasant effects.

Caviness says since there is no time for standard clinical trials, an emergency use authorization would be needed from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before widespread use of the treatment. Caviness welcomes volunteers to assist in the study. Those interested my contact him at 660-631-2802 or acaviness@centurylinke.net. He’s also formed an email group called COVID Community Response.

“If I get enough push behind this, physicians say ‘Hey, teach me how to use this,’” Caviness said. “That would help me immensely.”

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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