As residents settle into altered lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, they shouldn’t grow complacent because of a lack of confirmed cases in Miami County.

That’s the message from County Health Officer Dr. Christi Redmon who told the Tribune on Wednesday that now is the time to take the threat seriously as officials wait on more tests so they can better understand the scope of the problem.

“Until that is done, assume that it is in your community, because it is,” Redmon said. “That shouldn’t be a panic, it should be a (message to) ‘live differently.’”

Redmon, like so many other local, state and national health officials, says the goal now is to limit the spread of the virus so that hospitals and health care providers aren’t overrun with cases and can tend to those most severely affected.

But with only 39 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state of Indiana and none in Miami County as of Thursday morning, she said she worries that people still don’t understand that action now means a better outcome in the coming weeks.

People, Redmon said, need to be thinking in terms of not only protecting themselves from becoming infected, but, by changes to their lives in an effort to slow the spread, they are also protecting their neighbors.

“One follows the other in a pandemic,” she said.

The most aggressive action needs to be taken by those who feel ill.

Because tests are still not readily available, health care providers are following guidance on who gets tested and when until more tests make their way into the system.

“The bad thing is we can’t test everyone that needs to be tested,” Redmon said. “You have to have an accurate test to know what you are dealing with.”

So those who do fall ill with cold- and flu-like symptoms?

“You should assume you have it and do this,” she said, holding up a list of things people should do if they feel sick.

“Stay home and avoid contact with others,” read one of the items. Others included staying off of public transportation, avoiding crowded places and keeping distance (about 6 feet) from others. Direct contact with the elderly – the most at-risk population – should also be avoided.

In a news release earlier this week, Redmon also provided a list of information and other suggestions for everyone to keep in mind during the crisis.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw away the tissue in the trash and then wash your hands. Men do not use a “handkerchief”

Handwashing is one of the single most important and effective ways to protect against viruses or any illness.

Use soap (preferably liquid) as bar soap can transmit pathogens (germs)

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds - soap and water- wash between the fingers.

Dry your hands with a disposable paper towel. Use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands - however washing hands with soap and water is always best.

If you feel ill, call your healthcare provider FIRST rather than going to the office or ED waiting room. If you feel you need immediate attention call 911 and tell them the symptoms you are having so they are aware of and prepared with proper personal protective clothing to protect you and themselves.

Older people over 60 are at increased risk of serious outcomes from the virus and those risks increase even further for individuals over 80 and underlying disease states and those who are immune compromised.

That last point is important for people to keep in mind when thinking of their neighbors and loved ones, according to Redmon, who pointed out that many elderly who are trying to stay home and away from others may need supplies in the coming days.

“Check on your 80-year-old grandparents and parents,” she said. “Do not take them out. Do not go visit them.”

“If you have a neighbor that doesn’t have family in the area, that would be a good time to greet your neighbor” and see if they need any help, she added.

Abiding by the suggestions that she and other officials have laid out will help in making things more manageable in the coming days, Redmon said.

“The true worry would be not to change the way we live,” she said. “It’s much better that we as individuals freely make that choice.”

For more information and guidelines from the Indiana State Health Department visit: www.in.gov/coronavirus/.