Beginning Thursday, East Alabama Medical center will move forward with a no-visitors policy with few exceptions in order to help halt the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
Exceptions to that policy include pediatrics, level two nursery, women in labor, emergency department and end-of-life circumstances. If the attending physician or nurse manager determines that a support person is needed, however, the family will be contacted to make such arrangements.
“This temporary change is not a step we wanted to make,” said Laura Grill, president and CEO of EAMC. “However, with Lee County now having the second most COVID-19 cases in Alabama, we feel that it is extremely important to use this tactic to help flatten the curve of cases.”
EAMC said its receiving calls from people who say that if they're showing symptoms, their employer is requiring them to receive a COVID-19 test before returning to work.
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"Please know that we cannot 'test' every person who comes to the [emergency division] with these symptoms due to the limited number of supplies available for use for specimen collection," said John Atkinson, EAMC’s public relations and marketing director.
Getting "tested" means that a specimen has to be collected and sent to either the Alabama Department of Public Health or an independent lab. There, the tests will determine if the person is positive or negative for COVID-19.
But those tests, those collection kits that are in low supply right now, according to medical professionals, are being reserved by EAMC for people who meet screening criteria for testing. So first, people have to be screened by EAMC or their primary doctor. People can call 334-528-SICK to get screened by EAMC. Hours for that hotline are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
After a person is screened — which includes seeing if a person is showing symptoms such as coughing, having shortness of breath and a fever — then the medical professionals will decide if the person needs to get tested.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the 334-5280-SICK hotline had received 397 calls. At EAMC's drive-thru collection center, the hospital had collected 140 specimens as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, bring EAMC's total to 240 this week.
EAMC said it plans to open another COVID-19 collection tent at EAMC-Lanier on Friday. It will have limited hours, and appointments still have to be made.
Click here to see The Plainsman's full coverage of COVID-19 in the Auburn-Opelika area.
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