One Lincolnwood High School graduate is sharing her knowledge of infectious diseases in the fight against COVID-19.
Kristy (Armour) Michie, who graduated from Lincolnwood with the class of 1986, is currently serving as the assistant director of public health in Monterey County, CA. She is the daughter of Virginia Armour of Raymond and the late Kenneth Armour.
Michie, who has been with the health department for the past 13 years, said her background is in epidemiology, which is the study of infectious diseases. She earned her master’s degree in epidemiology from Colorado State University.
At the health department, her responsibilities include immunizations, community-based emergencies and communicable disease response, which has been her primary focus over the past 13 years, helping her county navigate the H1N1 and Ebola epidemics as well.
Now, her focus has turned to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing 32 confirmed cases in her county.
“What makes this situation different than the others, is that there’s not a lot of information about this disease and how it spreads in the community,” she said. “There’s also no vaccine or no drugs to treat it, and we have to rely on other methods to control the spread.”
In addition to working with the 47 confirmed cases, Michie is also doing contact investigations with 350 other residents, who have been in contact with those who have contracted the virus.
“At this point, we know there are more, but testing is just so limited,” she said. “And we continue to worry about people who are sick and have been around those with the virus.”
She added that what worries them most is the rate of increase of the disease.
“It’s really fast, and some people with the virus are getting really sick,” she said. “We don’t want the rate of really sick people to outpace the hospital beds available. All of our strategies focus on bending that curve to lower the rate of infection so our hospitals can absorb the really sick people.”
Another factor that makes this virus more harmful than the flu is that the flu season is typically spread over five months, while COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly over a series of weeks, which could also overload hospitals.
“There’s a lot of people working really hard to stop the spread,” she said. “The nice thing is that everyone is coming together, trying to make a difference. The public is helping out. People are staying home to break the chain of transmission.”
Michie offers several tips to residents trying to avoid infection. She said to stay home when possible, except to get groceries. She encouraged frequent hand washing and keeping hands away from the face.
She also encourages social distancing, staying at least six feet away from people.
“When people breathe or cough, the virus is carried in droplets that are rather heavy,” she said. “They are likely to fall off in six feet.”
For those who are working, she encourages them to clean and disinfect commonly-touched surfaces, like door knobs, copy machines, phones and pens.
“It’s not just about you,” Michie said. “It’s about the person you’re in contact with. Everyone needs to do their part to keep everyone safe.”