East Alabama Medical Center announced Tuesday that before a patient enters the emergency room, they will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
The Auburn University Medical Clinic will follow the same procedure after spring break, according to EAMC.
The update comes after Auburn asked all faculty members to “deliver at least one class period remotely during the week of March 16” in order to gauge how well prepared the University is at handling a possible campus-wide closure caused by a potential spread of the coronavirus, according to an email sent by provost Bill Hardgrave to faculty and obtained by The Plainsman.
The email followed the University’s decision to suspend all spring 2020 study abroad programs, including those that were scheduled for spring break, and its recall of all students who were already abroad this semester. Those students were strongly urged by the University to remain in self-quarantine at their respective homes and not come to campus.
Officials from East Alabama Medical Center hosted a press conference last Thursday morning to discuss how they're working with the cities of Auburn and Opelika and with Auburn University to prepare for a potential spread of COVID-19.
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The hospital set up a hotline for potential patients. People need to call 334-528-7425 before visiting any doctor’s office or emergency room if they experience flu-like symptoms, according to EAMC.
Preventing the spread of infections is the responsibility of the hospital and the community, said Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, infectious disease physician at EAMC. COVID-19 spreads rapidly and can enter the community at any time, Maldonado said.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that we could see a case of COVID-19 in our community,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado said 80% of patients will have mild illnesses. These patients do not need to visit a doctor’s office, but instead stay at home and treat symptoms with common remedies, Maldonado recommended. He said that 15% of patients will have serious cases like fever temperatures for multiple days and pneumonia symptoms in some cases. They should call the hotline and may require hospitalization, Maldonado said. Critical care will be required for 5% of those infected, he said.
The virus is most dangerous for the elderly and those with preexisting conditions, while most young and healthy people will only experience mild symptoms, Maldonado said.
“When we cough and we sneeze, we can pass this infection to other people,” Maldonado said. “When you’re close to somebody, within six feet, and you cough or you sneeze, you can spread the infection to other people. It has to be a close contact.”
Maldonado recommends covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissue that should be promptly thrown away. Hand washing is also important, but hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content can substitute if a sink is not available, the CDC said in an informational packet on COVID-19.
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