Hospitals throughout the area are gearing up for an influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping through the nation, affecting young and old alike.
At Temecula Valley Hospital, officials have set up a triage tent outside where patients exhibiting symptoms – fever, cough and shortness of breath – are being screened for the virus.
“Our hospital, is fully operational and is monitoring for symptoms in patients and implementing isolation protocols as appropriate,” Merideth Allard, marketing director of Temecula Valley Hospital, said, adding that the hospital was taking proactive steps to keep both team members and patients safe while serving the needs of the community.
“We are actively monitoring and responding to all recommendations made by the CDC and our local health authorities,” Allard said in an emailed statement to Valley News. “We have also been carefully monitoring our PPE (gowns, masks, gloves, etc.) to ensure we can provide the best health care to our patients and community. We are prepared to ensure all patients are provided with quality care, and patients, guests and our team remain safe.”
According to Brian Connors, director of marketing for Southwest Healthcare systems, both Rancho Springs and Inland Valley medical centers have been actively preparing for potential local cases of COVID-19 since the disease was first identified in the United States.
“We are working hard to prevent the spread of the disease and to ensure we are prepared to treat patients who do test positive due to community exposure,” Connors said. “This includes screening of all patients and visitors before entry into either facility and establishment of clear treatment protocols.”
All hospitals are following all guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention including strenuous visitor restrictions.
Temecula Valley Hospital has updated its visitation policy and will not be allowing visitation for hospitalized patients until further notice, Allard said.
With some health care experts saying the burden on the health care system could be “crippling” should the virus spread as quickly in the United States as it did in places like China and Italy. Due to the low number of cases in Riverside County at this time, it remains unclear if local hospitals would be affected at that level, but there are some things that residents can do to help alleviate pressure on hospitals, Connors said.
“Residents should remain calm and utilize only evidence-based resources to educate themselves. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Riverside County Department of Public Health are providing regular updates on their websites,” Connors said. “These are accessible via Google search or directly from the Rancho Springs or Inland Valley homepage.”
With an incubation period of two to 14 days, COVID-19 can be especially hard on the senior population and those with severe underlying chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, according to the CDC.
Those groups are at a “higher risk for developing more serious complications” from the virus and should “talk to their health care provider for any additional steps they might be able to take to protect themselves,” the CDC said.
Those who develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 should get medical attention immediately, the CDC said. Emergency warning signs include but are not limited to difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse or bluish face or lips.
“If someone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they should remain at home except to seek medical treatment,” Connors said. “If seeking non-urgent treatment, residents are encouraged to call ahead to their primary care provider to limit risk of exposure to other patients. The Rancho Springs and Inland Valley Emergency Departments are available for those in need of more urgent care.”
The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to it, Allard said, adding the spread is mainly occurring from person to person so social distancing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick.
“Avoiding crowds and crowded spaces, avoiding handshaking and hugging in public, deliberately staying at least 6 feet away from other people and replacing in person visits with remote check-ins using technology,” Allard said.
To protect yourself from the virus in addition to social distancing utilize frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, the CDC said. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of the hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry and to avoid touching eyes nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Other ways to protect yourself and others include avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home if you are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, throwing used tissues in the trash and immediately washing your hands with soap and water after you sneeze or cough.
“Stay home, use hand sanitizer and/or soap and water, cough and sneeze into their elbow,” Connors said.
You should also wear a facemask if you are sick when around other people and before entering a health care provider’s office. A facemask is not needed if you are not sick unless you are caring for someone who is.
You should also clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 and the local response to it, visit www.myvalleynews.com.
Loma Linda University Medical Center, Murrieta, did not respond to request for comment before press time.
Kim Harris can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.