DRMC: Assume COVID-19 is here

By JASMINE STEVERSON JSTEVERSON@DDTONLINE.COM,

Several care facilities, establishments and other entities across Washington County are hunkering down in accordance with the federal and state governments’ declarations in light of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, there were a total of 21 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the state as of Tuesday.

Copiah County reported two cases, Forrest County, three, Hancock County, one, Harrison County, one, Hinds County, six, Jackson County, one, Leflore County, four, Monroe County, one and Pearl River, two. 

Delta Regional Medical Center (DRMC) CEO Scott Christensen appeared at Monday’s BOS meeting along with medical director Dr. Robert Corkern and Amy Walker, chief nursing officer to discuss protocols that have been put in place as preemptive and preventive measures to keep patients safe from the spread of COVID-19.

“The best thing for the hospital to do is prepare for the inevitable,” Christensen said. 

DRMC has set up a Coronavirus hotline number, 662-725-6000.

“That’s proven so far to be effective in responding to a lot of the concerns and calls throughout the community so we encourage people, if they have any sort of questions whatsoever, to call that number and we’ll be there to respond appropriately with the right information,” Christensen said.

Speaking up, Corkern said, “You should assume it probably already is here.”

Corkern said the best strategies from the national level are pointing toward more and more overreacting upfront. 

“If there’s any possible way to stop this spread, the consensus is overreact now,” he said.

“We will have testing capability but we do not have it satisfactorily yet,” Corken said. “But it’s believed this week we will have increased capacity to do testing.”

Corkern said if a patient has symptoms or if he or she believes they have the virus, there is a separate area in the emergency department just for those individuals.

“My feeling is the more we do now to keep people separate and stop the spread, the better we’ll be … so as time goes on and we do get confirmed positives, we expect there will be an area and we’re ready for that,” Corkern said.

In addition, Corkern said he expects there may be hundreds of people worried if a case arrives in Washington County, but what those people may need is also education about the virus; nonetheless, DRMC is ready for it.

He noted the people who have the highest risk of being infected are people over 60 years of age or older or with chronic health issues, especially those with pulmonary issues.

DRMC has an amended visitor policy until further notice as it is taking necessary precautions to keep everyone safe while at the hospital.

The amended policy states, “All visitors must enter through the main entrance only, and check in at front desk. Main visitor times are from 10 a.m. until noon and from 4 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. ICU visitor times are from 10-10:30 a.m. and 8-8:30 p.m. No children under the age of 12 are allowed to visit and only two visitors per patient are allowed. For NICU, only parents or legal guardians are allowed for visitation. Overnight visitors will not be allowed to leave the facility after 8:30 p.m. Visitors with cold or flu symptoms are not allowed. Waiting rooms will be closed at 8 p.m. There will be limited vendor/outside agencies access on floors — patient care issues only. The policy is subject to change at any time; any deviations from the policy require a physician’s order or administrative approval.”

BOS president Carl McGee said he and the board met with local municipalities on last week with the exception of a few, in an effort to bring department heads together to get them to develop a response plan in the event of a COVID-19 case arriving in Washington County. 

McGee said at Monday’s meeting the consensus was to “go with the analogy that the virus will be here in six days. Thursday will mark the sixth day.”

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on last Friday and entities such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) responded in haste by implementing protective measures for facilities like Washington Care Center in Greenville.

Governor Tate Reeves declared a State of Emergency on Saturday and signed two executive orders — Executive Order No. 1459 activates the Mississippi National Guard to support mobile testing units and support Mississippi State Department of Health and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency at the testing locations; Executive Order No. 1458 allows state agencies to determine which state employees are essential and send everyone else home.

Washington Care Center administrator Forrest Everitt said, “The CMS came out Friday and said visitors and nursing homes’ visitation is now prohibited so we’re not allowing visitors in the facility.”

Aside from central staff, Everitt said a no one is allowed access inside the facility. In the event of end of life situations, however, they would allow family to visit their loved ones and be there in an end of life situation.

“We’re trying to minimize as many people in the facility as possible to prevent the spread,” he said.

Everitt and staff on Saturday started notifying families over the phone and sent out letters on Monday regarding the new guidelines as well as posted signs on the front entrance for visitors and friends so they will know what is going on.

“For the most part we’ve had a pretty good response from the families — they’ve understood and they’re glad that we’re taking these measures to protect their loved ones,” he highlighted.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting Tuesday through Friday, the Greenville Public School District began serving “Grab & Go” lunches to children 18 years of age and younger at Armstrong, Em Boyd, Webb and Weddington elementary schools.

The Western Line School District is also serving lunches from 11 a.m to 12:30 p.m. this week for all children ages 18 and younger at O’Bannon Cafeteria, Riverside Cafeteria, Metcalfe Town Hall and Lake Washington Baptist in Glen Allan.