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Preparing for Coronavirus… how hospitals are bracing for its arrival

(UDOH Executive Director, Dr. Joseph Miner, answering questions about Coronavirus. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Hospitals in Utah are bracing for the inevitable.  Doctors from health care officials all over the state are trying to tell everyone that they have plans and supplies ready to go when the Corona virus finally arrives in Utah.  Even though there aren’t any cases here, yet, they’re preparing as if its arrival is definitely going to happen.

The good news is that the Coronavirus, COVID-19, has a lower mortality rate than other dangerous viruses, like SARS.  The bad news, according to Utah Department of Health Executive Director Joseph Miner, is that far more people were infected with Coronavirus and spreading it to others while they didn’t know it.

Dr. Miner says, “Even with just a two percent mortality rate, if you have many, many more infected you’re having a lot more deaths.  That’s what we’re seeing with this.”

Administrators from MountainStar Healthcare, Intermountain Healthcare, Steward Health Care System, University of Utah Hospital, Primary Children’s Hospital, Utah Medical Association and the Utah Hospital Association all joined at UDOH headquarters to explain their plans of action if anyone in the state tests positive for the virus.  Most of them stated they already had pandemic policies in place for situations like this.

Even though there aren’t any reports of the virus in Utah, a recent case in California has forced health workers to step up their efforts.

“The identity of community transmission in the U.S. puts us on a higher alert,” according to UDOH Epidemiologist Angela Dunn.

The California patient is especially concerning to Dunn since that person didn’t have any known connection to people who have traveled to China or South Korea.

The best ways to prevent the spread of any virus are the well-known methods of washing your hands properly and staying home when sick.  However, Dunn says there are things the community can do if an outbreak actually happens here.

Dunn says, “These would be measures designed to limit social interactions.  So, things like school closures, cancelling of church services and cancelling of mass gatherings.”

Hospitals have been preparing for pandemics for many years.  Some of them prepared for a possible outbreak of the Ebola virus between 2014 and 2016.  Also, the state has the Utah Disaster Advisory Committee, which helps health care companies share information in times of crisis.

“We know each other and have each other’s cell phone numbers.  We’ve long been effective for many years,” says Utah Hospital Association President Greg Bell.

If someone tests positive, UDOH officials would tell the press within 24 hours.  Doctors say the Utahns who had tested positive while overseas will not need to be quarantined or get any treatment after they test negative twice for Coronavirus.


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