PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center on Sunday reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, an elderly Lewis County resident who is in isolation at the hospital, according to the Cowlitz County Department of Health and Human Services.
St. John confirmed the case Sunday. At this time, no additional exposure risks have been identified, the health department said. Lewis County also reported the same case Sunday, identifying the patient as a resident in their 80s whose gender was not released.
Centralia College announced Monday afternoon that a student tested positive for COVID-19. It’s unclear whether the student is a Lewis County resident.
COVID-19 cases are counted in the patient’s county of residence, so as of Monday afternoon Cowlitz County still did not have any confirmed COVID-19 cases even though the elderly Lewis County person is undergoing treatment here.
Lewis County health officials said Monday they are investigating where the elderly person undergoing treatment at St. John may have contracted the virus and whom they may have come into contact after they got sick.
PeaceHealth said St. John personnel involved in the case have “followed recommended protocols to keep our patients, families and fellow caregivers safe.”
PeaceHealth spokesman Randy Querin said Monday that anyone arriving at the hospital with a fever and cough immediately receives a face mask and is separated from other patients. It appears that staff followed that protocol in this case and the staff, other patients and visitors were protected, he said.
Hospital staff who treated the Lewis County patient were wearing personal protective equipment and do not have to go into isolation or quarantine, Querin said. They would only be tested for COVID-19 only if they show symptoms, he said.
With news of the disease coming closer to home, TDN asked readers to comment online about their views and how they are adjusting. In the smattering of responses so far, some readers said they are doing nothing differently in response to the virus spread and related restrictions, while others are taking more extensive precautions.
Laurrie Piland said she and her husband are in the high-risk category due to health problems and are “not venturing far from our yard.” She said they were already stocked up on most items, except medications.
“It is a change of our normal routine, but change is always a bit uncomfortable, at first,” Piland said. “We’re are managing just fine for now.”
Other commenters were worried about job losses and the impact on the economy.
“I’m mostly worried for all the people who have lost their jobs, are about to, and cut hours,” Angélica Pérez Ackermann posted. “(The) majority of people don’t have big savings accounts because cost of living is much higher than wage scale, and it shouldn’t be. ... Even if they collect unemployment that is a smaller amount than what they’d receive in a paycheck.”
St. John repeated its request that people who are feeling ill or are under age of 16 not visit the hospital. St. John continues to limit visitation in high-risk areas to a maximum of two visitors per patient.
Querin said the hospital is “sufficiently supplied for the near future” in personal protective equipment and other items. The biggest concern is staffing because of school closures, he said.
“They need childcare just like everyone else,” he said. “These people aren’t going to be able to work from home. They have to come and do this important work.”
Other local clinics are taking precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus and to free up capacity and equipment.
Kaiser Permanente Northwest is postponing or rescheduling elective or non-urgent surgeries. The group is also offering more video and phone visits to allow members to stay home and increase the number of patients treated and to ease the national shortage of protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns.
Cowlitz Family Health Center, which operates multiple clinics and dentist offices across the county, is taking similar precautions to Kaiser, said Dian Cooper, CEO. The organization closed residential facilities to visitors, she said.
The group is also taking employees’ temperatures at the beginning of their shifts and sending those with high temperatures home, she said.
Family Health Center is running low on personal protective equipment and is trying with difficulty to locate suppliers, Cooper said. The organization has reached out to public health and communicated its needs, she said.
Child and Adolescent Clinic will continue to see patients as usual but will screen them for COVID-19 symptoms or exposures, according to the clinic’s website.
Contact City Editor Andre Stepankowsky at 360-577-2520.
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