Only a matter of time: EAMC, AU and community leaders prep for COVID-19

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OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama.
However, East Alabama Medical Center and Auburn University Medical experts say they are preparing for an outbreak and protocols on how to contain virus spread.

“There is no reason to panic, but there is reason to get prepared. This is not an if – we are treating this as a when,” said AU Medical Clinic Director Dr. Frederick Kam.

During a Thursday morning press conference, east Alabama health experts say it’s likely COVID-19 is already in our community, just not diagnosed. The older population, those with chronic illnesses or weak immune systems are most at risk.

EAMC officials are tracking news on the COVID-19 regarding its spread, and protocols on isolation and treatment

“80% of patients will have a mild illness. 15% can have more serious infections may require hospitalization because of the pneumonia and 5% will require critical care,” said Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, EAMC Infectious Disease Director.

Caregivers are urging constant hand washing, cough etiquette and isolating if sick. If you believe you have COVID-19 you can call EAMC’s hotline for directions at 334-528-SICK.

“Call first if you have concerns or don’t know what to do please call first let us guide you thorough that before showing up at a health care facility,” said Brooke Bailey, EAMC Infection Prevention Director.

If symptoms are mild call your doctor. You’ll probably be advised to stay at home and not get tested. If you have difficulty breathing or persistent fever or other serious symptoms, call your doctor so they can prepare before showing up to a medical facility.

“We don’t just want you to show up and we don’t want you to come to the hospital if you only have mild symptoms. Can you imagine if everyone showed up for a cold to the hospital? We would be overwhelmed and we would not be able to care for the sick patients we have,” said Dr. Maldonado.

Health experts say the novel virus is more deadly than flue and there is no vaccine or treatment protocol, just supportive care.

Caregivers say this is a fluid situation that is ever-changing so make sure to stay informed with reputable sources like the CDC.

Earlier this week, East Alabama Medical Center sent out the following information, including helpful information regarding how the hospital is preparing for a potential outbreak and how you can help control the spread:

With Auburn University’s diverse population and local industries with ties to some of the affected countries, EAMC officials are taking the necessary steps to prepare for the possibility of the COVID-19 presenting itself in our region.

In the past two months, we have already had no less than seven multi-disciplinary meetings regarding the Coronavirus within EAMC and also participated in several conference calls with the CDC, the ADPH, and the Alabama Hospital Association.

EAMC officials are tracking news on the COVID-19 regarding its spread, and protocols on isolation and treatment. Also, instructional signage has been placed at the main entry points at EAMC, EAMC-Lanier and at the AU Medical Clinic, and we are continuing communication to all area physicians to make them aware of our actions and plans. Fred Kam, M.D., the medical director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, is a member of the AU Task Force regarding the COVID-19. He attends meetings at AU and EAMC and shares information on the actions each is taking to address the COVID-19 situation.

At the hospital, several staff members are being trained on every component of caring for a patient with COVID-19, including the donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) so as not to spread the virus to other patients or employees.

Like the seasonal flu, the elderly, the very young and those who are immunocompromised are the ones who are most at risk. Likewise, good hand hygiene, covering your cough and limiting public exposure are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, everyone is asked to please wash their hands often, avoid touching their face, routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and stay home when sick. For more information on the COVID-19, please visit www.cdc.gov/Coronavirus or www.alabamapublichealth.gov.

People with a history of travel in the past 14 days to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or Japan AND ARE NOT experiencing symptoms should call the Alabama Department of Health Infectious Diseases & Outbreaks Division at 1-800-338-8374.

People who have a history of travel in the past 14 days to China, South Korea, Italy, Iran or Japan AND are experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough or difficulty breathing, should call 334-528-SICK.

Watch for more details in the coming days.

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