Local hospitals prepare for Mid-South coronavirus cases, say risk is low for area

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local hospitals say they are making preparations in the event the coronavirus spreads to the Mid-South, but the risk is still low for the area.

World health officials are working around the clock to find the best way to reign in the coronavirus. President Trump recently announced the United States is “very ready” to handle the potentially deadly disease.

Dr. Dale Criner, the medical director for the emergency department at St. Francis-Bartlett Hospitals, says as far as the general public goes, the CDC is considering the risk to be low.

But, Criner says the coronavirus, or COVID-19, needs to be taken seriously.

“And we probably will see more spread, you know as most viruses go, so we do need to take it seriously but still the average risk to people, here in the Mid-South specifically is still low,” Criner said.

Criner says St. Francis-Bartlett is handling the screening process of patients as they normally do: asking if they have traveled, where they’ve traveled and if they’ve been in contact with anyone who is ill.

A representative for Baptist Hospitals says Baptist is also asking all patients screening questions to determine if they are at risk for coronavirus. If patients say “yes” to any question, they are immediately isolated. The full statement from Baptist Hospitals is available below.

Wednesday, Mid-South medical leaders from UT-Health Sciences, Regional One, Le Bonheur and the Shelby County Health Department discussed their proactive approach.

“We do have an area of the hospital that is isolated and is for just those patients if that should come,” said Dr. Martin Croce with Regional One. “We also have plenty of personal, protective equipment.”

At this time, there is no vaccination available to the public, so much of the preparedness relies on education and what the CDC recommends.

Full statement from Baptist Hospitals:

For the past six weeks, we have been asking all patients screening questions to determine if they are at risk for coronavirus. If they answer yes to any question, we immediately isolate them.

Our electronic health record links directly to the CDC’s travel alert system, which helps us screen for all emerging infectious diseases, including coronavirus.

We have daily meetings in our hospitals and on the system level, and we have a weekly meeting with all our facilities to make sure our plans are aligned.

We have personal protective equipment, and we’re conducting refresher training with our staff on how to use it.

We have more than 100 negative pressure rooms system-wide. Our patient placement center keeps track of all our hospital rooms — including these — so if we have contagious patients, we can move them into one of these rooms to contain their illness.

We’re putting up signage in all our hospitals and physician offices asking patients to tell a staff member immediately if they have flu-like symptoms.

We ask patients to put on a mask immediately if they have flu-like symptoms to help prevent the spread of illnesses.

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