By Stefanie Jackson – U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria met with Eastern Shore health and medical leaders Wednesday afternoon to discuss their coordinated response to COVID-19.
“This is a national emergency. This is a public health crisis. We each have our own personal responsibility to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,” Luria said.
There will be inconvenience and hardship to the American public, but there are simple guidelines everyone can follow to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and use of hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available, she said.
“We can each be part of the solution,” Luria emphasized.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed an $8.3 billion spending package to fight the coronavirus.
Congresswoman Luria also voted for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which the Senate passed Wednesday and could authorize more than $100 billion in aid that will go directly to vulnerable individuals and families.
Approximately 85 million Americans will benefit from the package that provides each eligible employee with 10 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave, Luria said.
Eastern Shore Rural Health CEO Nancy Stern was present to inform the public of changes in operating procedures at local community health centers.
“It’s not business as usual,” Stern said.
“Call first” was Stern’s advice to anyone who believes they may need to see a doctor. During the current health crisis, ESRH health centers are not performing preventative care but are serving patients with acute illnesses, she said. ESRH patients who visit a community health center will be triaged outside so that sick and healthy patients can be separated, Stern said.
There are also “special accommodations” for children up to age 2 getting well-child checks. “We really need to be focused on keeping our children well,” she said.
Dentists aren’t performing preventative care like teeth cleanings, added Scott Wolpin, ESRH’s chief dental officer.
He explained that dentists’ work often requires the use of a lot of personal protective equipment, or PPE, which is in short supply and must be saved for use during necessary procedures.
His team will continue to treat patients in immediate pain.
John Peterman, Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital’s administrator and vice president, advised citizens to talk to a doctor before deciding to visit the emergency room.
The hospital is not planning to do drive-up testing for coronavirus, he added. There are “strict criteria” needed for a patient to be tested, and most patients can be treated successfully for coronavirus without testing, he said.
Tom Hollandsworth, ESRH’s chief medical officer, reinforced the importance of social distancing and said, “Even though we’re rural, we’re not immune to this.”
Anyone who feels sick should stay home, Stern said.
J.J. Justis, Eastern Shore Health District local health emergency coordinator, said, “We’re working closely with our community partners … Eastern Shore Rural Health and Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital and their outpatient centers.”
“We are talking daily, we are providing guidance” on topics such as screening criteria, Justis said.
Jon Richardson, Eastern Shore Health District environmental health manager, restated the importance of social distancing and hand washing and sanitizing.
“I think there are still some people that aren’t taking the messaging seriously. … Folks should take it seriously,” he said.
“We need to protect our community, particularly our elderly and our immunocompromised folks who are most susceptible to serious health issues with this virus.”