Coronavirus

A shopper stands near empty shelves in the toilet paper aisle at Fred Meyer in Coos Bay on Friday. Local stores have been inundated with shoppers buying household cleaning products, hand sanitizer and toilet paper as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the U.S.

COOS COUNTY — Getting a sore throat and fever while a pandemic sweeps the state will give anyone a jolt of anxiety. On Tuesday this reporter called their primary care provider to schedule an appointment and was met with the “new normal” screening system at medical centers.

Instead of being told when to come in, I was told to stay home and wait for a phone call. An hour later, I was directed to come to North Bend Medical Center in the afternoon where two nurses would hand me a mask and direct me to a room in the walk-in clinic.

Signs on empty shelves notify customers of purchase limits on certain cleaning and health products such as vitamins at at Fred Meyer in Coos B…

Though I didn’t meet the criteria for a COVID-19 test, I saw firsthand how clinics are taking proactive steps to protect its staff as well as other patients.

Florence Pourtal-Stevens, Coos Health and Wellness’s public health director, said Coos County can expect the pandemic “anytime.”

In the meantime, she said Coos County has not seen any positive COVID-19 tests yet.

“Have we tested anyone? Yes,” she said.

Last week, Pourtal-Stevens said six tests were done but all came back negative. This week, 12 tests were ordered.

“We’re waiting for the results for a dozen people at this point,” she said. “… It’s fair to anticipate COVID-19 in this county. There are quite a few counties affected at this point, but I would advise people not to panic. I understand fear over a new disease, fear that we don’t have a vaccine in place to protect us, but it’s important for people to stay updated as it evolves multiple times a day.”

She reminded the public to wash their hands, which is the number one way to keep the virus from spreading.

“Your hands are a vector for this virus,” she said. “The more you wash your hands, the more you prevent an infection. We do a lot of hand-face touching in the day as human beings and need to be mindful of those movements and try to refrain from touching your mouth or nose or eyes.”

A hand sanitizing station is located near the front door of the South Coast Education Service District in Coos Bay as the Coronavirus disease …

In addition, she asked for folks to practice coughing and sneezing etiquette by using a tissue to cover their face and then throwing it away.

“Social distancing is also important,” she said. “By people doing this, it will help contain the spread of the virus as much as possible.”

Pourtal-Stevens pointed to the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world, including California and Washington state, as examples on what Oregon can do to stem the spread of the disease.

“It is important to take care of one another, especially the most vulnerable,” she said. “This virus does not discriminate, so anyone can get this virus.”

Coos Health and Wellness is asking for members of the public who are sick and don’t need medical care to stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and self-isolate. Pourtal-Stevens advised for people to have non-perishable food to reduce interactions in the public and have disinfectants with bleach solution.

“I think the steps being taken now is to avoid getting into a quarantine situation and prevent the spread of the virus,” she said. “It is a very fluid situation. It is evolving rapidly. We can’t predict what will happen. But I think people should be excited that our community has come together and professionals are working with the entire healthcare system and emergency responders. Everyone has been proactive and easy to work with.”

Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday that all K-12 public schools in the state of Oregon will be closed from Monday through the end of March in …

When asked about the new protocols at North Bend Medical Center, Pourtal-Stevens said NBMC has been working closely with Coos Health and Wellness for the past six weeks. The proactive measures in screening patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms are to reduce risks of exposure to staff and other patients.

“This might be the new normal for a while,” she said. “We don’t know how long this will last. I think as humans we adapt well to our environment. People will go with this new normal and people need to realize this is to protect the public and most vulnerable community members. That’s the goal.”

At Bay Area Hospital, similar screening measures are being put in place. All entrances are closing except for the main entrance, which will be open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Emergency Department entrance on the third floor will remain open 24-7.

“If you’re here for care and present with COVID-19 symptoms, you will be masked and isolated at the door,” said Kelli Dion, public information officer for BAH. “If you’re here for an out-patient procedure and present symptoms that will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

Of course, no one will be turned away at the hospital. BAH only asks that anyone coming to either entrance let people know if they aren’t feeling well so that proper measures can be taken to protect staff and other patients.

“Healthcare providers are a finite resource,” Dion explained. “If you take out healthcare providers, no one can take care of you if you’re sick, so let us know if you aren’t feeling well.”

Because COVID-19 is impacting older adults more than other age demographics, BAH has placed volunteers aged 60 and up on furlough to keep them safe.

BAH has also set up portable hand-washing stations for people when they come in before they are screened. Also, in the Emergency Department only one visitor is being allowed in at a time with people who are sick.

As for whether or not BAH is prepared once COVID-19 reaches the South Coast, Dion said “yes.”

“We will absolutely take good care of anyone who comes in but if we’re overwhelmed with the ‘worried well,’ it will slow things down,” she said, pointing to the CDC’s graphic about “flattening the curve.” “If we can stem the flow (of patients), then people will have access to resources. That’s not just BAH. That’s the entire world.”

Also making noticeable changes is Southern Coos Hospital and Health Center. In a press release, from SCHHC, the public was informed of the following set of recommendations for visitors:

• SCHHC requests that those who need to visit the hospital for outpatient (or lab and imaging) care come by themselves unless additional support is needed for mobility or other reasons.

• Patients registering for outpatient care will be asked to remain behind a red line or seated in a chair at the registration desk to maintain distance between themselves and our staff for everyone’s safety.

• Patients waiting for appointments are asked to implement a social distancing from others waiting of 3 or more feet whenever possible. 

• Patients visiting the Multi-Specialty Clinic are asked to wait behind a red line taped on the floor in order to maintain adequate distance between themselves and the registration staff

• ED patients may see changes in our triage and intake methods as we make changes to address an evolving situation. 

To stay up-to-date on COVID-19 information follow The World, visit Coos Health and Wellness’ website and email question to CHW at covid19.questions@chw.coos.or.us.

“We’ve trained for this,” Dion said. “It isn’t to say this won’t be a marathon … We are better to stay ahead of it.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 236, or by email at worldnews1@countrymedia.net. Follow her on Twitter: @je_wardwriter.

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