ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After treating a 63-year-old New York man who tested positive for coronavirus, a St. Augustine hospital is testing everyone who came in close contact with the patient.
Dr. Vivek Manikal, an infectious disease physician at Flagler Health+, told News4Jax on Thursday there were about 50 employees who had been in contact with the patients, and two of those employees chose to self-quarantine.
“We’ve had about 50 employees who came into contact with this individual, and we have certainly screened them out for any symptoms. We want to make sure that they don’t place the facility at risk, so we have carefully screened them to make sure that they don’t have any symptoms. If they do have any symptoms, they would not be allowed to return to work,” said Manikal. “Two of them have elected voluntarily to self-quarantine.”
He said the hospital is working on getting anyone who could be been in contact with the patient tested.
The New York man now being treated in St. Johns County was among the new positive cases of the coronavirus in Florida announced by the Department of Health in the last 24 hours. The hospital said he is “appropriately isolated and in good condition.”
“We have obviously placed the patient in isolation. I cannot speak further about patient details, but he is steadily improving and seems to be responding to treatment," Manikal said.
Flagler Health+ said it has been preparing for COVID-19 for weeks and is confident its ability to handle the outbreak.
“Just as we successfully prepared for and navigated through the pandemic H1N1 flu more than a decade ago, our leadership, emergency management, and infection prevention teams are collaborating with the Florida Department of Health and other key community agencies to ensure the healthiest environment for our patients and area residents,” the hospital said.
The hospital is very closely monitoring anyone who comes in and out of its doors. People must first check-in with a staff member stationed outside, who asks each person if they are experiencing any flu-like or upper respiratory symptoms. If someone is experiencing those systems, that person is handed a mask
“If they do have any symptoms, we have an off-site facility within the campus and we will send them to that campus for further monitoring and testing and evaluation," Manikal said.
Scheduled surgeries and procedures will continue as usual with appropriate precautions but the hospital is moving routine community lab draws to off-site locations.
“If you are concerned you may have COVID-19, you should self isolate, contact the health department or your primary care provider by telephone or utilize our Flagler Health Anywhere app for a discounted virtual visit with a physician - using the code FlaglerHealth2020,” the hospital said. “More than anything, we want you to know that we are here for you, your families and loved ones; we will continue to keep you updated and remain vigilant in our safety and preparedness efforts.”
And while the number of reported coronavirus cases is significantly smaller than the flu, Manikal explained why there’s concern surrounding COVID-19.
“It has spread worldwide in a very short period of time, so it does raise the specter of a pandemic, and the WHO has also already labeled it as a pandemic, and certainly the attack rate seems to be high, the percentage of patients who have become sick with illness appears to be quite high," he said. “So hospitals do have reason to be concerned, especially patients who are older those with immune-compromised and conditions.”