Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Spring Break At TCWR and COVID 19 Precautions

March 10, 2020

Heather Klatt, DO Board Certified in Internal Medicine

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is gearing up for Spring Break! Spring is the perfect time to visit, the weather is warming up, the animals are extremely active, and the Ozark’s bloom in a spectrum of colors! But, this year, many people are changing their plans because of the Coronavirus. As a nonprofit that relies on donations and visitors, we have been keeping a close eye on the spread of this disease. Luckily, we have a brand new board member who is a doctor. Dr. Heather Klatt has been keeping us up to date on the development of COVID 19 and advising us on the best way to keep our visitors healthy! But don’t take our word for it, Dr. Klatt has been kind enough to write a guest post specifically about COVID 19 and visiting the Refuge for spring break!

Hello TCWR friends and family. You may be wondering, with all the news about COVID 19, if it is safe to venture out of the house this Spring Break. Well, I have great news – a visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is just the thing to wipe away the winter blues and step into spring. You can have a safe, memorable visit if you follow some simple precautions.

The news and the internet are great resources. They help us communicate and receive information at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, it can also allow a lot of false news and sensationalized coverage to leak through. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to sift through all that news! The most recent news is COVID 19. What is true? What is the risk? Is it safe to travel? Here is some information to help you make the most of your Spring Break.

First of all, it is important to know that COVID 19 is a strain of the same virus that causes the common cold. It is a more virulent strain and is new in humans so it is getting a lot of attention. However, the method of transmission is the same as the common cold. COVID 19 has a mortality rate of between 1-2%. It is difficult to know exact numbers as individuals with mild cases are less likely to request medical care. It is a more serious illness than seasonal Influenza (the flu) but less severe than SARS (Medscape March 2020). Most fatalities have been in elderly people with multiple underlying medical conditions. (The Lancet, March 2020)

At this time, one person has been tested and is awaiting CDC results in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which is over 233 miles away from Turpentine Creek. Twelve people have been tested and all have been negative. There are currently 100 individuals under observation. The states surrounding Arkansas have had a very small number of cases diagnosed (Centers of Disease Control, 3/9/2020). Should COVID-19 reach North West Arkansas, the following precautions can greatly reduce your risk of contracting COVID 19 should you come in contact with it:

  • The biggest precaution you can take is to wash your hands. It is recommended that you wash your hands after using the restroom, prior to eating or drinking, prior to taking medication or using eye drops, after sneezing or coughing and after being in a public setting. It is advised you wash with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, containing at least 60% alcohol, are the next best measure but soap and water remain the most effective method (Dr. Richard Watkins, MD, Infectious Disease).
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and politely request others do the same.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • At this time, the CDC does not recommend wearing face masks unless you are already ill.
  • If you are ill, it is recommended you stay home as your immune system will be compromised making it harder for you to fight off illness, including COVID 19.

Overall, the risk of contracting COVID 19 during a visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is extremely low. It is an outdoor activity with plenty of fresh air and few indoor publicly shared surfaces or spaces. Even those areas are low risk with the precautions above. I hope you will make plans to come to see your favorite cat, bear, coatimundi or Rhesus Macaque! We look forward to seeing you!

Heather Klatt, DO Board Certified in Internal Medicine

Have you decided to just not take the risk to travel for your Spring Break? Please consider using a portion of your Spring Break budget to help the animals at the Refuge! Your donation goes 100% towards the care of our animals and helps keep the Refuge running! Donate the cost of admission ($25) and help us save lives!

You can also visit the Rogers -Lowell Chamber of Commerce Page for information about how surrounding communities are monitoring the virus in our area.