‘Only accessing the hospital when appropriate’: Questions about coronavirus, answered by hospital chief medical officer (VIDEO) | TheUnion.com
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‘Only accessing the hospital when appropriate’: Questions about coronavirus, answered by hospital chief medical officer (VIDEO)

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Nevada County residents have many questions about how the coronavirus is being monitored and treated locally.

On Thursday, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital answered some of those lingering queries.

According to hospital Chief Medical Officer Jeff Rosenburg, there are three instances in which coronavirus testing should occur: if a person recently traveled to South Korea, China, Italy, Iran or Japan and they have a fever of over 100.4 degrees and lower respiratory tract illness symptoms; if someone has been in contact with a lab-confirmed coronavirus patient 14 days before their fever or lower respiratory tract illness symptoms manifest; or if a person has the symptoms listed above and has no alternative explanatory diagnosis.

According to the hospital, people that fall into these categories should first see their primary care physician.

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If someone doesn’t have a primary care physician, Rosenburg suggested people go to an urgent clinic or related facility before reaching out to the hospital. Testing and treatment for the coronavirus will be given to people even if they don’t have medical insurance.

“My understanding is that you do not need to have a source of payment for a coronavirus test,” said Rosenburg, adding that tests cost the hospital about $90.

Tests for coronavirus are frequently administered by someone’s physician, after which the local hospital is notified to schedule an appointment for the sick person for drive-thru testing on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

If someone has mild symptoms, and can take care of themselves, they should self-isolate to free up resources for the hospital, according to the chief medical officer.

“We’re trying to limit being over-run at the hospital with people requiring testing,” said Rosenburg. “So we only want to utilize the hospital if you think that you might need to be hospitalized.”

For those with mild symptoms, Dignity Health has launched a website, http://www.dignityhealth.org/virtualcareanywhere, and app — Virtual Care Anywhere — where people can be reviewed by a physician.

People with severe symptoms include those who have extreme difficulty breathing, bluish lips or face, pain or pressure in the chest, dizziness, confusion and seizures.

DRIVE-THRU TESTING

On Tuesday, the hospital could administer 40 tests with its drive-thru, and saw about 11 patients, according to Rosenburg, and on Wednesday, it saw about 25 people.

Procedurally, people are swabbed from their car in the drive-thru and return home, where they are later notified of the test results.

Even if someone tests positive for coronavirus, they would be encouraged to stay home if their symptoms are mild or moderate in order to reduce transmitting the virus or overwhelming hospital resources.

“The only reason people would be hospitalized is if they require hospital care,” said Rosenburg.

Thus far, the chief medical officer said the hospital has not been over-run, and remains able to handle all the cases that have come its way.

“The community has been fantastic in that they’re only accessing the hospital when appropriate,” he said. “So that’s been very helpful that people are following the guidelines to self-isolate.”

However, the hospital is prepared to ramp up the number of patients it sees. Currently, people are sorted at the hospital depending on whether they have respiratory issues. If they have them, they receive a mask and are evaluated by a physician who has patient-protective gear, Rosenburg said.

The hospital has an extended area as well as a tent that will be used if the number of coronavirus patients increases.

Rosenburg didn’t say how many people could be admitted, adding that it was “quite a number.”

Hospital workers themselves are following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and taking “droplet precautions,” wearing face-shields or eye protection, gloves, a gown and a regular mask, according to the chief medical officer.

There are people at the hospital monitoring its resources — including ventilators and N95 masks — daily. Whenever the hospital needs materials, Rosenburg said it reaches out to the county health department, one of its vendors or to hospitals within the Dignity Health network.

In general, Rosenburg encourages people to wash their hands and not touch their face. But if they do touch their face or something in public, they should wash their hands.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the fever temperature someone should be running in order to get tested for the coronavirus. The correct temperature is 100.4 degrees.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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