Healthcare Facilities Focus on Facts, Precautions
by TERESA SCHIFFER
There is a new “C” word scaring people these days, and we’re willing to bet you’ve already heard it – coronavirus. Everywhere you look, coronavirus, or COVID-19, is on people’s lips. While the CDC is recommending we all take precautions, such as handwashing, good household hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and staying home when sick, what are local health care professionals doing to control the spread of this contagious virus? Area hospitals like those operated by BayCare Health System and AdventHealth are announcing what steps they are implementing in order to adequately treat patients while preventing further contamination within their facilities.
First, what exactly are we dealing with? The full name of this viral infection is Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. It is a new type of infection that causes mild to severe respiratory illness. As of March 19, there was no widely accepted and approved vaccine to prevent the disease.
According to Watson Clinic, the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to that of the common cold or flu – fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can begin to manifest anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to an infected individual. COVID-19 is primarily spread by coughing and sneezing. Tiny droplets expelled in this way can be inhaled by people nearby. Being within six feet of an affected person for a prolonged period of time will increase your risk of catching the disease.
As the presence of novel coronavirus continues to increase in Florida and across the United States, it is imperative that hospitals and clinics remain operational in order to treat and contain the virus. It is important that appropriate measures are employed to protect staff, vulnerable patients, and the public at large. To that end, many health care providers are opting to apply restrictions on visitors to their facilities.
BayCare Health System is keeping a close eye on the spread of COVID-19 and screening all visitors to facilities throughout Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, and Polk counties. Anyone who is deemed a risk will be restricted from entering the facility and may be referred to an Emergency Department for further assessment. Children under the age of 18 will not be permitted to enter any facility as visitors, but they will still be admitted if they are in need of medical attention. Because the support of friends and family is a vital part of a patient’s recovery, BayCare is encouraging loved ones to reach out via phone or video calling to keep in touch with patients.
BayCare asks all individuals with questions about the virus or BayCare’s procedures to go to baycare.org/newsroom. This site is updated regularly with the latest information.
AdventHealth, which operates 10 hospitals throughout Central Florida plus dozens of urgent care centers, rehab facilities, emergency rooms, and other specialty services, has begun screening all visitors to any of their facilities each time they enter. This includes vendors. If the screening process identifies a symptom of concern, that person will not be able to enter the building until they are tested for COVID-19 and it is confirmed that they are not infected. No children under the age of 12 will be permitted as visitors. Anyone who is sick in any way or who has had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter the facility as a visitor. All visitors are required to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before entering and after leaving patient rooms and the facility.
The pediatric departments of AdventHealth will be functioning as normal, so children in need of medical attention will still be admitted. Visiting hours for patients may change, so be sure to call the AdventHealth facility you intend to visit beforehand to get the most up-to-date information in order to avoid any inconvenience. Anyone who suspects that they may have the virus is encouraged to seek treatment with their local healthcare provider.
Floridians can have all of their questions about COVID-19 answered for free by trained personnel on the “AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line.” If necessary, callers can also speak directly with a nurse by contacting the free phone service. The phone number is 877-VIRUSHQ and it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline will also connect Florida residents with health resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health. While the initial launch of the AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line is limited to Florida, the organization will soon be expanding the service to all communities for which AdventHealth provides services. They have also set up a website with important information on the virus, which you can access at CoronavirusSignsAndSymptoms.com.
There are other resources available for information on COVID-19 as well. The Department of Health in Polk County is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at (863) 519-7911. Their website contains the latest information on the disease at FloridaHealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/. The State of Florida has also opened a dedicated COVID-19 Call Center that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number for that service is 1-866-779-6121.
Bond Clinic offers these useful tips to help minimize your risk of exposure to COVID-19:
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Stay home if you are not feeling well.
- Avoid being in close contact with people who are ill.
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue, then discard the tissue in the trash immediately.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly before eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- When you cannot wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces in your home that are touched regularly.
- Only use a face mask if you yourself are showing symptoms of COVID-19 in order to prevent transmission of the disease to others.
If we work together, we can limit the damage caused by this current pandemic. A little prevention and common sense will work far better than panic and fear when it comes to managing COVID-19.