After one case of COVID-19 was confirmed Friday, March 13, Marshall Medical Centers and other hospitals across the state have started coordinating with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to stay up to date with the latest developments of the virus.

"Our hospitals taken every precaution to ensure the safety of our patients and our staff," Marshall Medical Centers officials said in a statement. "We have treated communicable diseases for many years, so we understand the precautions that must be taken in terms of isolating patients, limiting visitors and having employees wear protective clothing. Plans are in place."

"We have developed processes to properly screen and isolate individuals who present to our hospital Emergency Department and who meet the CDC criteria for the virus.

"In order to protect the safety and well-being of our patients and guests, Marshall Medical Centers has implemented a policy to restrict the number of visitors per patient room to two guests, and is strongly discouraging unnecessary visits to the hospital. If you have symptoms, please do not come to the hospital. Children under the age of 16 should not visit patients, even when accompanied by an adult. We may make exceptions under extraordinary circumstances, on a case by case evaluation."

For those who have an upcoming appointment scheduled at a Marshall Medical Center, officials said to plan to keep the appointment.

"As with any illness, contact your provider prior to your appointment if you are not feeling well to determine if you need to reschedule your appointment," officials stated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports patients with coronavirus can experience mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms typically appearing within 2-14 days of being exposed to the virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

If one believes they have symptoms, stay home in order to reduce the risk of catching or spreading illness. Do not go to work or school or public places. If symptoms are severe and medical care appears to be needed, officials recommend calling before going to a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency room.

Other suggestions by Marshall Medical Centers include:

• If your doctor's office is closed, call an urgent care center or your local hospital. If you don't need to see a doctor, keep your distance from others.

• Wear a mask and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

• If you have a medical emergency, and have symptoms, call 911 and tell the dispatcher about your symptoms and recent travel history.

Marshall Medical Centers said not everyone should be tested for coronavirus. The criteria for being tested is:

• Have fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days.

• Have fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative rapid flu test.

"Our healthcare providers are following public health guidelines for testing criteria," officials stated. "If you think you need to be tested contact your health care provider. You can call the Alabama Department of Public Health or visit the public health website. Please call your primary care provider for further instructions if you feel you have been exposed and need testing.

"While all hospitals are capable of collecting specimens on individuals who need to be tested, the state is in the process of establishing a strategy to stand up and staff additional sites outside of hospital emergency departments. This is part of an overall strategy to help contain the spread of the virus.

"After specimen collection, most people will be able to go home and self-isolate while the test is being conducted to determine if they have the virus or not. Naturally, if there are any patients who have serious symptoms, they will be isolated in a hospital setting so that treatment for underlying conditions can occur while test results are pending."

Those most at risk of severe illness are the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and/or people with underlying health issues.

According to Marshall Medical Centers, frequent handwashing is the first line of defense against coronavirus especially after being in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

"Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds," officials stated. "If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol are effective."

 Other ways to prevent exposure to coronavirus include:

• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people.

• Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throwing away the tissue.

• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects or surfaces with household cleaning sprays or wipes.

• Wearing a facemask if sick when around other people (sharing a room or vehicle).

• Staying home when sick.

For more information, visit cdc.gov or alabamapublichealth.gov.

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