Sun, Feb 09, 2020 - Page 7 News List

US prepares for coronavirus pandemic that some experts now see as likely

While the disease can cause severe cases that prove fatal, many of those infected only have mild cold-like symptoms, increasing the chance that they could pass it on before they are aware of the situation

By Robert Langreth and Michelle Cortez  /  Bloomberg

Northwell Health, a 23-hospital system in New York with 800 outpatient facilities, began screening all patients for travel history to affected areas about two weeks ago, chief quality officer and deputy chief medical officer Mark Jarrett said.

Patients who have recently traveled to China are given masks, taken to airborne isolation rooms and evaluated by staff wearing protective gear. Northwell staff who encounter a suspected case of coronavirus have a central telephone line to connect with senior clinicians, who can help evaluate and make sure samples are sent to the CDC for testing.

In the event of widespread circulation, Northwell is planning “surge units” that would steer suspected cases to particular hospital wards, separated from others who might be vulnerable. It also has mobile tents that can be set up as field hospitals.

“If there’s a sudden surge of patients because of the fact that it’s that widespread, you clearly will never have enough airborne isolation rooms,” Jarrett said. “There just aren’t. No hospital has enough.”

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