Sentara rolling out changes amid coronavirus response

Published: Mar. 11, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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As hospitals across the United States prepare for treatment of more COVID-19 cases, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Sentara is rolling out changes to all their facilities.

Limits on visitors

According to a release sent on Wednesday afternoon, Sentara says all their hospitals will – starting on Thursday, March 12 – only allow two visitors per patient at a time in their hospitals, emergency departments, and all other outpatient settings.

They're asking any visitor who has been sick with coughing, sneezing, or fever to not come, and asking anyone who has traveled internationally, period – not just to known virus hotspots like Italy and China – to not come either.

Sentara's treatment of COVID-19 cases

Sentara said on Tuesday that one of their facilities had treated a patient with a confirmed case of COVID-19. However, in our area, Sentara RMH confirmed that the patients who tested positive for the disease after hospital treatment were not seen at either Sentara RMH or Sentara Martha Jefferson.

There remain no confirmed cases in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia has

, located in northern, eastern, and central Virginia.

Changes at facilities with high senior populations

Sentara is also limiting patients at nursing centers, rehabilitation centers, and their Assisted Living Village to two patients per day in hours between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Visitors to those locations will be screened for signs of illness and travel history before being allowed to enter.

In-house testing in development and other changes

In addition, Sentara announced that Optima Health will waive all member co-pays for COVID-19 diagnostic testing at any in-network lab location and offer free tele-health visits to members (i.e., no member co-pays or cost-share) for in-network virtual care partners.

In one more update, Sentara says they now have access to COVID-19 tests through commercial laboratories and will use that to test for the virus in-house even if testing cannot be obtained through state health departments, so long as a doctor thinks screenings for the virus is advisable.

What to know about coronavirus

Most people don't suffer much from COVID-19, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly (One of the 2 Fairfax City patients has been identified as being his 80s) and people with existing health problems.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

If you have a respiratory illness that includes a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath and either had contact with someone with a confirmed case of the virus or traveled to an area with confirmed cases of the virus, Sentara says to take these steps:

1. Call your healthcare provider to determine the safest screening method for you. If you are a Sentara patient, this may include a video visit.

2. Please consider a virtual visit to determine if you need further screening or testing. Many insurance plans, including Optima Health, will cover the member cost of testing for COVID-19. Options include Sentara Video Visits or MDLIVE.

3. If you have a respiratory illness that includes a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath AND you meet

for COVID-19, AND you do not have a primary care physician, cannot participate in a virtual visit, or a visit has recommended further screening or testing for COVID-19, visit your local emergency department. Please call in advance so that infection prevention precautions may be taken to protect you, other patients, visitors and employees.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Avoid contact with sick people.

• Avoid non-essential travel.

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