With one confirmed coronavirus case in the Valley, area health officials are urging residents to practice social distancing and remain home as much as possible as the number of cases are expected to increase.

Naugatuck Valley Health District Director of Health Jessica Stelmaszek said area health professionals expect the number of confirmed cases to jump with the increased availability of commercial laboratory testing.

“Additionally, community spread/transmission is now occurring,” said Stelmaszek. “Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.”

Stelmaszek said no further details about the residents will be provided to protect their privacy. She said that no such outbreak has occurred in the age of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but “it is important to remember that during a public health emergency, such as a disease outbreak, the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules still apply and that the privacy of our residents must be protected to the extent possible.”

When asked how will one know if one came in close contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, health officials stated:

* Those who have come in contact with individuals who are positive with COVID-19 outside of a healthcare setting are referred to as “community contacts” and will be notified by the local health department for the town they reside in. Individuals will be advised to self-quarantine and monitor their symptoms.

* Individuals who reside in the same household as a confirmed positive case will be required to self-quarantine with public health supervision performed by the local health department.

* If an exposure occurs within a healthcare setting, that agency will take the lead on contacting and monitoring the individual(s) for the duration of their self-quarantine.

“If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice,” said Stelmaszek. “Please do not show up without calling first.”

Stelmaszek said there is currently no vaccine or antiviral medication to prevent or lessen the impact of this particular coronavirus, so the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to it and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

“It is extremely important to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible,” she said. “We understand this may be disruptive and difficult, and may even seem extreme but these are the strongest public health steps we can take as a community to slow the spread of this virus, protect the most at-risk members of our community from serious illness, and prevent our healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed.”

Health officials offered the following tips:

* Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Please call your medical provider before showing up.

* Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

* Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For more information, visit www.ct.gov/coronavirus or www.nvhd.org/coronaviruses/COVID-19 or call 2-1-1 or text “CTCOVID” to 898211. This hotline is available 24 hours a day and in multiple languages.

Additionally, Griffin Health is offering an information hotline at 203-204-1053 for patients, visitors and community residents who have questions about COVID-19. Griffin caregivers will be available to answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For tips on taking care of your behavioral health and coping with stress and anxiety during an infectious disease outbreak, visit portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Pages/Behavioral-Health or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com