LRH enacts visitor restrictions

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lakes Regional Healthcare is restricting visitors, beginning immediately. At this point, one of the patient's immediate family members or the patient's primary caregiver will only be allowed to visit if they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, which include a fever of 100 degrees or over, cough, or shortness of breath, and if they have not traveled in the last 30 days outside the U.S. or within the U.S. to areas known to have COVID-19 cases. This restriction applies to visitors of patients in all areas within Lakes Regional Healthcare until further notice.

News about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been alarming to many. It's concerning because it's a new virus, is spreading relatively quickly, currently has no vaccine and has a higher death rate than other respiratory viruses such as the flu.

People in Iowa are still at low risk for contracting the virus. Regardless, LRH, Lakes Family Practice and Spirit Lake Medical Center have developed a protocol for how to identify, isolate, and treat those possibly infected with COVID-19, which are people:

1. With respiratory symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing)

2. Who have traveled outside the US or in areas of the US with confirmed cases within the last 14 days OR have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19

Their goal is to identify these people soon, preferably over the phone or at the point of entry to the hospital's campus. Visitors and patients who meet either of the above criteria are to stay outside the hospital in a vehicle and call the following numbers based on their appointment/location:

712-336-3750Lakes Family Practice
712-336-2410Spirit Lake Medical Center or east hospital entrance
712-339-6150South hospital entrance

A hospital or clinic representative will then meet them at their car, provide them with a face mask to wear, and cover them with a sheet or blanket. They will then be brought into the hospital and directly into a private, closed door exam room to receive care. Healthcare providers will complete the patient’s exam wearing a gown, gloves, mask, and eye protection.

"After the patient leaves, the exam room will sit undisturbed for four hours to allow air handlers to cycle the air in the room," LRH Assistant Chief Nursing Office Chris Ingraham said,The room will also be cleaned with approved disinfectant by a person wearing personal protective equipment. We also have plans in place in case the rooms can’t be turned over quickly enough to meet the volume of patients to be seen."

According to Ingraham, the community should be alert but not anxious. He said, "We are well-prepared for this. Yes, it is wise to take steps to protect yourself and others, but at this point COVID-19 is a threat, but not a crisis."

There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy:

1. Wash your hands often.

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

2. Avoid close contact with others.

Stay at least 6 feet away from people who are sick. COVID-19 is spread by droplets that land on surfaces upon touch or by sneezing and coughing.

3. Stay at home if you are sick.

Spirit Lake Medical Center physician and Dickinson County Public Health Medical Director Zach Borus, MD, MPH advises people who are sick with a mild respiratory illness to stay home instead of going to the doctor. He said, “If you’re not severely ill, we’ll probably ask you to stay home for a couple of weeks, testing your temperature twice a day. Most people have only mild symptoms and it’s best to stay home to prevent spreading it to others, as your body fights off the virus. If it gets worse, then we’d have you come to the hospital.”

4. Cover coughs and sneezes.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Otherwise use the inside of your elbow. After sneezing or coughing, throw used tissues in the trash. Then immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If they are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer.

5. Wear a facemask IF YOU ARE SICK.

If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people, such as sharing a room or a vehicle, and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. Lakes Regional Healthcare has implemented a protocol for patients and visitors that are sick with upper respiratory illnesses to call them before entering their hospital or doctors’ offices (see above).

6. Clean and disinfect daily.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them with a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface. An option includes diluting your household bleach by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water. Be sure the bleach is not past its expiration. Also, be sure to never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

Although COVID-19 may be concerning, it’s important to put the virus into perspective. At this point, according to the CDC, 81% of people infected with the COVID-19 virus have a mild illness, 14% have a moderate to severe illness, and 5% have a critical illness. The death rate of the virus is roughly 2%. This compares to the flu’s death rate of .1 to .2%, but it also compares to Ebola’s 50% death rate, SARS’ 10% death rate, and the 30% death rate of the 2012 MERS virus.

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