Although the Centers for Disease Control and Mississippi State Department of Health are taking the lead in dealing with the coronavirus, area hospitals are stepping up precautions and preparations.
The primary providers in North Mississippi are Baptist Memorial Health Care and North Mississippi Health Services.
Baptist is already treating someone with the virus in Shelby County and the first presumptive case in Mississippi was reported Wednesday.
Baptist facilities are now screening all arriving patients for fever and flu-like symptoms, travel to high-risk areas or close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.
North Mississippi and Baptist are placing some limits on visitors, but not yet prohibiting them.
Baptist issued this statement Wednesday:
“As we are in a time of global pandemic, the following visitor guidelines are in place:
- Any patient visitor with respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) should stay home. Special circumstances may be considered.
- We strongly recommend limiting the number of visitors to two per patient.
- Hospitals should use discretion and may screen visitors for signs and symptoms of infection.
Visitors to COVID-19 patients (if they occur) will be limited on a case by case method.”
Any patient determined to be at risk is immediately isolated and put in protective clothing and gear. Staff members who work with them also wear personal protective equipment.
The Baptist system has more than 100 negative pressure rooms in which to put contagious patients, although the locations were not specified.
North Mississippi Health Services has also been focusing on public education and establishing protocols for hospital and clinic staff concerning the virus. They are working closely with the CDC and state health department as well.
Signs at the entrances to their facilities read: “Have you traveled to China AND have flu-like symptoms? STOP and please do not enter the building. Return to your vehicle and call 1-800-882-6274 for instructions on how to proceed with medical treatment.” This connects patients to Nurse Link, which provides more specific instructions based on individual situations.
Patients at Baptist with those symptoms are immediately asked to don masks, a practice that has already been in place in many hospital and doctors’ offices due to the flu. The use of such masks is simply being requested more urgently.
NMHS also immediately isolates those with symptoms.
North Mississippi has been procuring extra medical supplies appropriate to this population in case they are needed as well.
Although the virus may live on an inanimate surface for a short time, the main fear of transmission is person to person. Baptist’s information defines a cautionary situation as one person within about six feet of another for at least 10 minutes. However, the virus can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Because they can land on surfaces and live for several hours is why people are urged to wash their hands before touching their nose, eyes, or mouth.
The CDC does not recommend that anyone who is well wear a facemask to protect themselves from any respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. However, the use of masks is recommended once a person shows symptoms of COVID-19 to prevent spread.
All medical professionals agree that you should not go to your doctor or emergency room if you have possible coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed to the virus.
With mild to moderate symptoms, call your doctor for instructions.
If you have more severe symptoms and need to go to the hospital, call the facility and report symptoms, recent travel and possible exposure before going there, in order to help protect patients and staff.
One problem with COVID-19 is that it shares symptoms with other illnesses that may be less severe such as common colds, or even allergies. Cough and muscle or body aches fall into that category with fever as being more identifiable and difficulty breathing even more cause for concern.
By now, most people should be aware of ways to avoid COVID-19 but both healthcare organizations reiterated some suggestions. Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or 60-percent alcohol hand sanitizer. Wash before eating, after going to the bathroom and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth, avoid contact with sick people, cover your coughs and sneezes and stay home if you are ill.
Also, often clean frequently touched objects and surfaces.
To be prepared for a local outbreak, make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription drugs and other healthcare supplies. Have a printed copy of your healthcare records and create a household plan. Check with family and friends regularly and if you are quarantined you should have a two-week supply of food and access to water.
Both organizations have set up dedicated web pages to provided updated information concerning COVID-19 and the health department has an information hotline.
North Mississippi Health Services:
Baptist Memorial Health Care System:
Mississippi State Department of Health:
Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline (8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday): 877-978-6453.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of disinfectants that can be used against COVID-19:
https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2Baptist Memorial, hospital, New Albany, North Mississippi Medical Center, Union County