Augusta Health is diligently participating in state and local preparations to receive and care for patients who may have, or be suspected of having, COVID-19. Our team is prepared, as areother hospitals in the commonwealth, to care for our community.
Hospitals in the state are prepared with best practices through our own crisis management policies and regular attendance on state and local web-conferences and calls that update us on the latest information. Our internal Emerging Pathogens Committee convenes twice a week to ensure updates for processes, policies and supply levels are being addressed and met correctly. In addition, Augusta Health is also an active participant in the VHHA/VDH COVID-19 Committee. This Committee, comprised of hospitals and organizations from around the state, meets via phone conference twice weekly to share information and best practices to work towards a thoughtful and effective approach to the situation. Additionally, key Augusta Health leadership and staff meet every morning to discuss the current situation at Augusta Health, any concerns that may have risen in the previous 24 hours, and preparations that need to be made for the coming day.
It is important to remember:
- At this time, testing for COVID-19 is limited to those who meet criteria. Criteria include symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever, cough and shortness of breath AND recent travel to high risk areas OR close contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
- Not everyone who is tested has COVID-19. Patients who meet testing criteria are tested for COVID-19 as well as for other respiratory infections. The Virginia Department of Heath lists positive results by health district region. That website provides the accurate information on test results.
- The strong majority (about 80%) of patients with COVID-19 are mild. They do not require hospitalization and recover on their own, just as many with the flu do not require hospitalization and recover on their own. Also like the flu, older adults and those with medical risk factors (such as chronic disease) are most at risk for a complicated case that might require hospitalization.
- As public interest in Coronavirus intensifies, it is important to remember that those being tested have legally protected rights to privacy under the federal HIPAA Privacy Rule and state law. Again, the source of information for whether or not a test has a positive result is the Virginia Department of Public Health. Augusta Health, like all hospitals, must follow all patient privacy laws, regulations, and policies.
- To prevent spread of disease, especially respiratory infections, please wash your hands and stay home if you feel ill.
SARS-CoV-2, previously referred to as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is a virus that can be spread from person to person. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named the virus COVID-19. It was first detected in Wuhan, China, and has quickly spread throughout China and is confirmed to be present in other countries.
We currently live in a lower risk area for Coronavirus (COVID-19) activity; however, if there is a consistent spread in the United States, the entire country will have some risk of the virus spreading. This is because as viruses spread, the pattern can be unpredictable and can change rapidly. Currently, the Shenandoah Valley has been experiencing a really tough flu season, and it is much more likely that you will be exposed to the flu at present.
Augusta Health prepares for respiratory viruses each season, in particular influenza. We have plans in place to respond to any infectious disease incident or emerging pathogen such as COVID-19. Augusta Health also has a long-standing relationship with the Virginia Department of Health and would collaborate closely should there be an occurrence of COVID-19 at our facility. In collaboration with the Department of Health, information will be shared regularly with the community.
Yes! Augusta Health has been working with state, regional, and local healthcare coalition partners to prepare to care for patients suspected or known to have the coronavirus. This planning assists the partners with communication, coordination, monitoring of the current state, and the sharing of resources and best practices. Augusta Health has a response plan in place to care for patients suspected to have the coronavirus. This plan includes a number of procedures for: assessment of patients arriving at the emergency department or ambulatory locations, patient isolation, team member safety and health, investigation and testing, and the cleaning and disinfecting of the physical environment. With the combination of healthcare coalition partnerships and an up-to-date response plan Augusta Health is ready to care for suspected coronavirus patients while protecting our team members and community.
Currently, the average flu mortality rate for the past several years is 0.1%, compared to Coronavirus (COVID-19) which is currently rated at 2%. The highest risk patients for complications related to COVID-19 are similar to those patients that are at higher risk for influenza complications. This higher risk population includes the elderly, as well as patients with weakened immune systems. For patients with COVID-19, the main treatment is "supportive care". Patients may need to be supported with supplemental oxygen or whatever means necessary to be stabilized during their illness. In addition, appropriate treatments for the symptoms such as fever would be administered.
The Influenza vaccine does not protect against coronavirus (COVID-19). To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected can receive care to relieve symptoms, if severe. Like the flu, many people will have mild symptoms that they can manage at home. A small percentage of people with serious illness will require hospital care. Most patients recover with supportive care.
The influenza activity in Virginia remains widespread. So, if you have not received your flu vaccine, it's not too late.
Health officials in the U.S. do not recommend the use of masks among people not showing symptoms of COVID-19. People in places where spread is more likely, may have been instructed to wear masks to prevent infecting others and to possibly prevent getting ill from close contact in crowded places.
The Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers by the CDC specifically speaks to workplaces with lots of information. The big take a ways are:
- Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
- Separate sick employees until employee can be sent home
Yes. Testing for Coronavirus, however, is authorized by the Virginia Department of Health. So if a patient would come in with the symptoms of coronavirus, they will be asked a series of questions. Augusta Health staff will contact the Virginia Department of Health with the answers, then the Department of Health will advise staff if they should test the patient for coronavirus.
It is impossible to predict if a specific individual will get COVID-19 and when that will happen. We do know that those who have traveled to certain regions (China, Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran) are at higher risk. We know those who have close contact, such as those who live, with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 are at higher risk. We do know the elderly (over age 80) and those with chronic disease are at higher risk. Many planned festivals, conferences, sporting events around the world and schools with large attendance are rescheduling because they might include attendees with an higher risk.
The best advice is to use common sense and think of your community. Wash your hands. If you are sick, stay home! If you are in a high risk group such as over age 80 or with chronic disease, be aware that you are at higher risk and make your decisions with your risk in mind.
Since the test for Coronavirus is done by the Virginia Department of Health, they will determine how it will be processed.