COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Mar 11, 2020

As concern over COVID-19 grows, St. Joseph’s/Candler wants you to know that your health and safety is our top priority. We are prepared for and actively monitoring the spread of the virus by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended infection prevention and control practices.

Here is what we know so far about COVID-19:

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. It’s officially named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 for short.

What is St. Joseph’s/Candler doing to prepare for COVID-19?

St. Joseph’s/Candler is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended infection prevention and control practices including:

  • Minimizing the chance for exposure
  • Placing any patient with suspected or known COVID-19 in a separate location
  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks and gowns, to our co-workers
  • Educating staff, patients and the community on proper hand hygiene

Because many of our patients are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19, St. Joseph’s/Candler has implemented several visitation restrictions to avoid spread of respiratory illness. Currently we have visitor restrictions in place that prohibit visitors with flu-like or other respiratory symptoms from visiting our facilities.

We are screening patients for COVID-19 by:

  • Asking about recent travel history
  • Asking about exposure to others who have traveled
  • Determining if the person is experiencing any of the symptoms of COVID-19

Patients and visitors to the LCRP will be screened through a written questionnaire. Please be prepared to:

  • Answer questions about your travel history
  • State if you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath)
  • State if you have a fever
  • Tell us of any recent contact with an ill traveler

For the safety of our patients and for the safety of your children, children under the age of 18 are not permitted to visit any patients at St. Joseph’s/Candler.

Additionally, only one visitor will be allowed to accompany a patient.

At St. Joseph’s/Candler, our co-workers are prepared year round to handle infectious diseases and an influx of patients, should that occur. At both St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital, we stock PPE – head covers, masks, eye protection, gowns, gloves, coveralls and disposable boots – specifically designed to treat patients suspected of having an infectious virus. The emergency room staff is trained regularly on guidelines for putting on and taking off PPE.

There are 20 negative pressure rooms between the two hospitals that are always prepared for use. These rooms are intended for patient isolation and are designed so that when the door opens air goes inside the room and not out.

How will St. Joseph’s/Candler test and treat a potential COVID-19 patient?

St. Joseph’s/Candler is prepared for and is actively monitoring the spread of COVID-19. Our infectious disease doctors and nurses are in close contact with the CDC as well as the Georgia Department of Public Health. We are following the most current guidelines from those agencies in order to treat any potential cases of COVID-19 and to protect other patients in our facilities.

If a patient comes through one of our emergency departments with respiratory symptoms, they will be masked by the intake nurse. The patient will be asked about their travel history, exposure to others who have traveled recently and their symptoms will be assessed. We rule out all other potential causes for symptoms first, like the flu.

If a patient is symptomatic enough for hospitalization, then most likely they will be a candidate for testing. After consultation with the Department of Public Health, we will proceed with testing, if indicated. The results can take three to four days to return.

During this time, the patient is in isolation and treatment for symptoms is provided. Family members and those who have been in contact with the patient are asked to self-quarantine at home pending the results of the test.

Patients who come to our primary care offices who meet the criteria will be evaluated by their physician on an individual basis. If symptoms are mild, the patient will be advised to self-quarantine. If the symptoms progress, then they may be a candidate for testing. This will be determined by the physician’s judgment in consultation with our Infectious Diseases team.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is a new disease and experts are still learning how it spreads. However, they do believe it mainly spreads from person-to-person by:

  • People who are in close contact with one another (about six feet)
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets land on the face of people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs.

People are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. There also are indications this virus can spread before someone shows any symptoms, and some people may be asymptomatic but still spread the virus.

It may also be possible that someone gets COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their face. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily does COVID-19 spread?

While experts are still learning about COVID-19, it appears this virus spreads easily and sustainably in affected communities, according to the CDC. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they become infected.

What are symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. The following symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough (lower respiratory illness)
  • Shortness of breath

Call your doctor if you develop these symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled to an area with widespread or ongoing spread of COVID-19 including:

  • China
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • South Korea

Your healthcare provider can make recommendations as to stay home or go to the emergency department if you experience any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Who’s most at risk of getting COVID-19?

As of today, according to the CDC, most people in the United States have little immediate risk of exposure to the virus. This virus is NOT currently spreading widely in the United States.

However, some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this virus, including:

  • Older adults
  • The very young
  • People with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease
  • People with compromised or weakened immune systems

How can I prevent getting COVID-19?

For the general population, your risk of getting COVID-19 is low. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. There are simple, every day preventative steps you can take to help prevent the spread of any respiratory virus including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • If you are sick, stay home
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces regularly, such as door knobs, light switches, toys and other items
  • Always cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the sleeve of your arm
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
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