As COVID-19, the latest strain of coronavirus, spreads across the globe and the country, Jones Regional Medical Center, including the first presumed cases in Iowa, is taking steps to ensure safety during flu season.
The hospital said in a press release that the care and safety of patients, families, guests and team members as top priority. As a result, JRMC is carefully monitoring the COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, and making preparations to care for patients if needed.
“As with any global health emergency, we take the threat of COVID-19 very seriously,” says Eric Briesemeister, CEO of JRMC. “While this is a new disease, the processes required to ensure patients are treated appropriately while protecting our staff and the public are not unfamiliar to us. It’s important to remember our hospitals and clinics effectively care for individuals with contagious illnesses every day, and our staff is well-trained.”
UnityPoint Health has convened a team of leaders and subject matter experts focused on providing consistent direction and information across all UnityPoint Health sites, including JRMC. The team is meeting regularly and partnering closely with state departments of public health and the CDC on the most up-to-date information and guidance related to COVID-19.
JRMC’s medical staff and infection prevention leaders are working with the UnityPoint Health team and following the latest guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for screening, testing and infection control among patients suspected of COVID-19 infection.
In a press conference March 8, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that the first cases had been found in Iowa. According to a press release, “testing at Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory has indicated three presumptive positive cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iowa residents.” All three residents were from Johnson County and were “recovering at home in isolation.” IDPH Medical Director and State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said all three were on a cruise in Egypt.
“The state of Iowa has been coordinating plans across state agencies, including a partial activation of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), to protect the health of Iowans and assess our operational needs. While these are the first cases, it may not be the last, and it’s why Iowans must continue to practice safe habits like hand washing and staying home from work when sick,” Gov. Reynolds said. “My team is engaged through the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the nation’s governors to work collaboratively to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
As of March 9, that number had increased to eight, seven from Johnson County and one from Pottawattamie. All seven presumptive cases in Johnson County had traveled on the same cruise ship, while the Pottawattamie case had recently traveled to California. Following the new cases, the governor signed a disaster proclamation to allow the state to dip into the necessary funds.
As a precaution for flu season, the hospital announced March 6, prior to the first case being located in Iowa, that they were enacting visitor restrictions that they stated were put in place until further notice. The restrictions stated that, “Visitors are limited to two adults per patient room at any time unless there is a special circumstance. Adults are classified as individuals 18 years of age or older and must be in good health. Children are not allowed to visit at this time.”
The release also advised that, “visitors should wash their hands before and after visiting a patient and should cough or sneeze into a tissue or shirtsleeve.”
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, here are some important reminders:
• It is important to understand the risk of influenza is much higher than the risk of COVID-19 in Iowa right now.
• Prevention of COVID-19 is the same as that for other respiratory illnesses (like flu):
o Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow
o Clean your hands frequently with soap and water
o Contain germs by staying home when ill
• If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms, please consider calling your doctor, clinic or the ER before arriving. They may be able to assess your symptoms over the phone and then instruct you on what to do next. This may help in prevent the potential spread of disease.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, no additional or special precautions are recommended for Iowans beyond the simple daily precautions to combat the flu including washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill.
It is currently flu and respiratory disease season, and IDPH recommends getting the flu vaccine. Influenza activity is widespread in Iowa and as long as flu viruses are circulating, it’s not too late to receive the vaccine.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and CDC are closely monitoring COVID-19 and will provide updated information as it becomes available. For the most up-to-date information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.