Both Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers and Parkview Physicians Group have created new protocols to deal with the spread of COVID-19, also called novel coronavirus, in Williams County.
The goal is to check or at least minimize the disease, which has been confirmed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As of late Monday, no confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in Williams County, according to the Williams County Health Department. An initial report early Saturday of a case in the county was later revised after it was confirmed the person is actually a Defiance County resident.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, there are 33,404 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., which have resulted in 400 deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
However, the numbers of reported cases really are just “the tip of iceberg” compared to the number of cases expected in the coming weeks, Rachel Aeschliman, Williams County Health Department director of nursing, said Friday during a conference call with the health department, Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers and Parkview Physicians Group.
Aeschliman said that right now — because of the number of people who are infected but have no symptoms yet, the way the virus spreads and a lack of testing equipment in Williams County and across the U.S. — the actual number of cases is unknown.
Aeschliman said the term “novel” in “novel coronavirus” means there is no previous history of the virus or how it behaves, other than it is highly contagious and spread human-to-human and by human-to-infected-surfaces contact.
She noted that on Friday, March 13, there were 938 confirmed cases nationwide, with four in Ohio. A week later, on March 20, the CDC reported 10,442 cases nationwide and 109 in Ohio. Monday, the CDC reported 33,404 cases nationwide.
As of Monday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health reports 442 confirmed cases in Ohio — including two in Defiance County — and six deaths, including one in Lucas County.
Importantly, the novel coronavirus is far different, and deadlier, than the seasonal flu, Aeschliman said.
“(COVID-19) spreads two times faster than the flu and is 15 times deadlier,” especially to those 65 and older and/or those with lung and heart issues and diabetes, she said.
In Friday’s conference call, Aeschliman and Jim Watkins, Williams County health commissioner, said testing is less of an issue because the assumption is that coronavirus is already present within the county. They said efforts should be concentrated on minimizing human interaction as a way to minimize the virus’s spread.
Both CHWC and PPG have responded by putting new internal processes and protocols in place — following guidelines suggested by ODH and the CDC — to try to minimize the spread of the virus.
And in Friday’s conference call, both health care facilities said they have created what they are calling “incident command centers,” which are dedicated teams of personnel and resources to coordinate responses to those who may exhibit symptoms of the virus.
“CHWC has implemented a ‘no visitor’ policy, with very few exceptions, until further notice,” according to CHWC President and CEO Chad Tinkel.
The hospital has closed off all entrances and exits except the main entrance. At the main entrance, the hospital performs screening checks of everyone who enters the hospital’s doors. This includes taking temperature and asking key questions regarding symptoms and contact with others, Tinkel said.
PPG has also implemented a no visitor policy, with limited exemptions for minor patients (visitors limited to one parent or guardian), and patients who need special assistance (limited to one adult caregiver), according to Sally Taylor, vice president, PPG Physicians Practice—Ohio.
She said visitors with potential COVID-19 symptoms — fever, cough or sore throat — will not be allowed to accompany patients. Additional visitors are not permitted in the lobby areas and will be asked to wait outside the facility or in their vehicle.
PPG has also set up a dedicated entrance for patients experiencing potential COVID-19 symptoms. These patients should use the FirstCare Walk-In Clinic entrance, located on the east side of the building. All other patients may use the main entrance.
And to protect patients and staff, anyone entering PPG will go through a safety check-in upon arrival to be screened for symptoms, similar to CHWC.
“The care and well-being of our community is Parkview’s top priority,” Taylor said. “Certain measures are being implemented at all Parkview Health and Parkview Physicians Group facilities to protect everyone entering. We ask for the community’s understanding and cooperation in the weeks ahead as we navigate the COVID-19 outbreak together.”
PPG’s hours of operation have been revised and the facility will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tinkel said following a previously announced state directive, CHWC has canceled elective surgeries and procedures until further notice and will work with those patients to reschedule.
“And persons who have elective outpatient appointments are asked to reschedule if they are exhibiting symptoms of illness,” Tinkel said, adding that anyone experiencing mild or moderate symptoms should isolate themselves to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Tinkel advised that persons should only come to the CHWC hospital/emergency room for a medical emergency, and it is helpful if they call ahead and alert that they are on their way, so health care workers can prepare for their arrival.
Tinkel said CHWC is “actively planning for an anticipated influx of patients needing hospitalization for severe COVID-19 symptoms.”
He also noted that CHWC is finding ways to conserve the equipment that protects health care staff (gowns, gloves, facemasks, eye protection and respirator masks), but is facing shortages. Anyone able to donate protective equipment is asked to contact Moe Shahin for arrangements: 419-636-1131, ext. 14104, or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor advised that PPG patients who use routine lab and imaging services are asked to contact their provider prior to arriving for those appointments.
“If you have a standing appointment or ongoing care plan, you should also contact your provider prior to canceling or rescheduling,” she said.
Taylor also suggested PPG patients consider using telehealth resources to reduce their exposure risk. Parkview Health offers two mobile applications, Parkview MyChart and Parkview OnDemand.
Patients with an existing MyChart account can log in and choose “Talk to a Provider” to start a virtual visit. You do not have to be an existing Parkview patient to use Parkview OnDemand, which is available 24/7.