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Governments scramble as the virus spreads globally

By Tamas Mondovics

As it was reported by the New York Times as late as Tuesday morning, the threat of a full-scale pandemic is growing by the day, even as governments around the world “shifted their focus on… devising plans to contain the spread of the new coronavirus rather than to stamp it out, and to do so without causing widespread social disruption and economic upheaval.

The Times article reported that in the United States, where there are now more than 100 confirmed cases in 15 states and six deaths linked to the virus, “the Trump administration sought to project an image of control even as concerns emerged about early missteps, including defective diagnostic kits and highly restrictive rules for administering the tests, both of which may have contributed to the early spread of the virus.”

While there have been no reported cases in Tennessee or Virginia to date, (the writing of this article) Ballad Health Chairman and CEO Alan Levine sent an email to Ballad Health employees last week in an effort to be on top of things.

In part, Levine stated, “Dear colleagues and community members, I am writing to share some important information about the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. To date, there have been more than 80,000 confirmed cases in China and 31 other countries and territories, including 53 cases in the United States.

Ballad Health has plans in place to ensure our health system and team members are prepared to confront this public health challenge.

We are coordinating our efforts with the Tennessee and Virginia Departments of Health, statewide associations and regional and local stakeholders, while receiving up-to-date information from the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) about the status of the coronavirus. I also want to thank our partners at ETSU, who have been extremely generous in coordinating their plans to support our efforts to care for the region.”

Levine added, “In the coming days, Ballad Health Infection Prevention teams will be holding tabletop exercises with operational leaders across the system to ensure team members are familiar with Ballad Health’s pandemic plan and to provide any additional input.

If we are to care for our community, our first priority must be to protect our own team members and ensure they are adequately trained and equipped to provide safe and effective treatment. Some of the issues we are incorporating into our planning include altering procedures to allow for telework and contingency planning for the disruptions that we would all experience if COVID-19 does have a material impact. For the present, our main clinical focus should be following CDC guidelines for identification of patients whose symptoms meet CDC criteria for COVID-19 testing. We expect the CDC will regularly update these guidelines, and we will share updated criteria with providers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising that all Americans begin to prepare for the potential spread of the virus in communities across the country. This means team members and community members should start thinking about following the CDC’s routine emergency supply recommendations. This includes:

  • Non-perishable food
  • A supply of needed over-the-counter medications
  • A three-month supply of prescription medication
  • Paper goods and toiletries
  • Thinking through possible child care options in case of school and daycare closures
  • Pet supplies

This recommendation does not mean you should stockpile these supplies, but this window of opportunity is a good time to grab a few extra items during a trip to the store.

Additionally, some preventative actions recommended by the CDC include:

  • Avoiding close contact with sick people
  • Staying home if you’re sick
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

I understand this may be a troubling time for many, and a time that raises questions and fears, but we are in this field to make a difference. It is important we use the privilege of our service to help calm our public, keep them focused on ways they can help themselves, and be prepared to serve them if the need should arise. They are counting on all of us at Ballad Health to be prepared, and to be their trusted source of care and information.

We commit to stay in regular communication with you as we all prepare to serve our community during this time.

Please do not hesitate to contact Corporate Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift or the infection prevention specialist at your facility if you have any questions regarding COVID-19, our plan or your role in the response.

Team members can learn more about the COVID-19 virus, Ballad Health’s preparation efforts and community updates on the local response by visiting www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

You can also learn more about the COVID-19 situation by visiting the CDC website, the WHO website or the Tennessee Department of Health website.

Thank you for all you do, and God bless each of you for being part of this very important team.

Alan,”