St. Jude Medical Center is taking steps to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus by implementing new screening protocols that include taking the temperature of anyone entering its hospital. Anticipating increased numbers of patients, St. Jude has also erected a tent outside of its Emergency entrance in order to “screen patients prior to their entry into the facility,” according to St. Jude spokesperson Dru Ann Copping. Other preparations to “build capacity and prevent the spread of the virus” include eliminating visitations and postponing “elective non-urgent surgeries and procedures.” The medical center has halted its support groups, classes, and events and is currently trying to move them online.
These extraordinary steps are being undertaken as the number of people in Orange and neighboring counties testing positive for and dying from the COVID-19 virus increases daily. Citing patient and staff privacy, St. Jude will not reveal whether anyone being treated in their hospital or any of its health caregivers has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Orange County health officials have begun reporting COVID-19 cases on a city-by-city basis, with Fullerton reporting 15 cases on April 3.
Previously, all cases were reported as an aggregate number attributed to the county at large.
Ms. Copping indicated that the hospital believes they will have sufficient ventilators on hand, “however, it will depend on the surge or influx of patients.” Ventilators are necessary in the most serious COVID-19 cases as lung functioning declines. The Observer was referred to Orange County Public Healthcare Agency in response to the question of whether enough COVID-19 test kits are available at St. Jude. The agency’s website lists only one private health lab with the capacity to test fewer than 1,500 specimens.
At this time, COVID-19 tests are not available on demand. Instead, patients must have an order from a physician, who will evaluate the patient to look for specific criteria. Symptoms of the disease include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who advise seeking medical help immediately if a person develops emergency warning signs, including trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face, or newly developed confusion or the inability to arouse. It is spread through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. The virus can live on surfaces; frequent handwashing is advised.
St. Jude released a statement from Chief Executive Brian Helleland: “If you need us, St. Jude is here and please don’t hesitate to come in. But there is important information about this outbreak and we need the community’s help in getting the word out. If you begin to feel sick, self-isolate at home and do not immediately go to the emergency department (ED), urgent care, or a physician’s office for testing. If your symptoms worsen, please contact your physician’s office. While news and social media highlight the need for testing, most common illnesses are not COVID-19 and can be cared for with self-isolation and symptom management. Healthcare can rapidly become overwhelmed and our resources drained if everyone comes to the ED. We need our physicians and caregivers to be able to focus on those who are most critically ill.”
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