CLINTON — Warner Hospital & Health Services staff is taking ongoing steps to be prepared for a possible local outbreak of COVID-19. Hospital CEO Paul Skowron said Monday the hospital is updating its protocols daily to deal with the current virus climate.
“We have to be very flexible with our response,” Skowron said. “Every single day we have to update our policies and procedures for emergency preparedness.”
There currently are 105 reported cases of the virus across 13 Illinois counties, Skowron said.
“One of those cases is in Clinton County, not DeWitt County,” he said. “But, we have to be prepared as if one of those cases could occur in DeWitt County.”
He said the escalation of cases before the hospital was able to conduct proper testing was such, “we just have to assume once all the hospitals do have testing facilities and we’re really able to see what the numbers are, the number of folks presenting themselves to the hospital could be overwhelming.”
Skowron said, based on this assumption, the hospital was now preparing for a possible surge in local cases.
Hospital staff is following all Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations and procedures and will tell patients they cannot be tested if they do not qualify for testing.
“That by itself will be disturbing to some folks,” he said. “But, we are preparing for that kind of surge in the coming weeks.”
Some epidemiologists suggest outbreaks of the virus could continue through the summer, possibly even into next year. Most have resisted speculating that warmer weather could eradicate the virus. At this point, those experts say there is no way to really know.
The hospital is restricting what staff consider unnecessary activity at the facility. Starting on Monday, the hospital suspended elective surgeries until the virus appears to be under control and reported cases is declining. That recommendation came from the office of the U.S. Surgeon General.
Skowron said this would protect patients and staff and help preserve hospital supplies for “the long haul.”
The hospital also is restricting patient flow. Restrictive policies for visitors is now in place. In an emergency, one member of a patient’s family may visit, such as one parent of a child who is in the emergency room.
“Those are the kinds of common sense restrictive measures that we are taking,”
Also, everyone who enters the hospital through admitting, emergency or the Family Medicine building is currently required to wear a mask.
“So we can reduce the transmission of any germs,” Skowron said. “This kind of activity is going to only get heightened as each day goes on.”
Staff at Warner is in contact with the Illinois Department of Public Health each day after IDPH had received up-to-date guidance from the CDC.
Skowron said the hospital also was preparing for a “forward triage” area at the hospital to screen patients in case of a large number of local COVID-19 cases.
City Public Health and Safety commissioner Dan Ballenger offered the hospital the use of a staging tent used by the fire department. The tent could be heated if necessary and set up quickly for use as a triage site.
Skowron reported Monday to the city council.
So far, most COVID-19 patients have experience only mild symptoms and generally are instructed to quarantine at home.
The CDC reports, as of Mar. 17, there are 4,226 confirmed cases currently in the U.S. with 75 deaths.