Amid a global outbreak of the novel coronavirus – which has now spread to Kentucky with the state’s first confirmed case announced Friday – Bowling Green hospitals are updating their screening practices.
In a written statement Sunday, Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, an infectious disease and travel medicine specialist with Med Center Health, said The Medical Center at Bowling Green has investigated one suspected coronavirus case. However, after further screening, results came back negative for COVID-19.
“The Medical Center at Bowling Green has had one person under investigation for COVID-19 (coronavirus) that was negative on further medical screening. That patient has since been released. We have had no other cases that screen positive for any concerns at this time.
“The Medical Center emergency department and all of its facilities are on heightened awareness for any case that might need further screening or testing. Our staff and physicians are up-to-date and continue to engage for any needs on this problem,” Shadowen wrote.
She added that The Medical Center has a long history of screening for infectious diseases, most recently with the Ebola outbreak of 2014.
“The Medical Center has been screening patients for travel related infections for more than 10 years,” Shadowen said. “First we screened resistant tuberculosis, then SARS-1, then MERS Co V followed by Ebola. The screening processes are updated in real time with all of our facilities.
“COVID-19 has been screened at our facility since early January with increased specificity. All cases of concern are, and will be, tested. Visitor policies are in place and we advise everyone to avoid any healthcare facility if it is not necessary for their medical care. Social distancing and social etiquette are very important in control of this problem.”
On Friday, TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital announced in a news release that it will implement new screening procedures for entry into its facility. The new precautions are aimed at warding against coronavirus and the spread of other respiratory diseases, the release said.
“The safety of our patients, visitors and staff is (our) top priority,” Dr. David Smith, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in the release. “This new protocol is in response to evidence-based (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. We feel these measures are appropriate to keep our patients, visitors and community safe.”
Under these new precautions, patients and visitors will be directed to use either the hospital’s emergency room entrance or its main entrance, where they will be screened for signs of illness before being admitted to patient care areas, the release said.
Personnel will ask questions about recent travel, fever and any respiratory illness symptoms. If the patient has such symptoms, they will be asked to wear a face mask, cover any coughs and then be admitted to the patient care area for further assistance, the release said.
TriStar Greenview will also follow its regular visitation policy used during each respiratory illness season. If visitors have any fever or other respiratory symptoms, the hospital is asking that they postpone their visit, the release said.
Along with the new precautions, TriStar Greenview said it’s been taking proactive steps in recent weeks in preparation for the potential spread of coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. Those measures include regular communication with state and local public health officials, monitoring and conserving personal protective equipment and following environmental cleaning policies to control infection spread.
The hospital encourages patients to call its Ask-A-Nurse line at 270-495-6670 with health questions. It’s also asking the public to maintain good hygiene practices, such as frequent hand-washing and maintaining a 6-foot rule around others.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Sunday that there are four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kentucky. The patients are in Jefferson, Fayette and Harrison counties and are being treated in isolation.
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. death toll from the virus has reached at least 21 and the number of cases worldwide soared above 110,000.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.