ROANOKE, Va. – There are some in the community who feel there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in southwest Virginia because they think no one is being tested here. On Wednesday, Carilion Clinic leaders announced 165 people have been tested for the virus. Two-thirds of them are still being tested, while one-third of them have come back negative. And the hospital is preparing to make additional room for the most critical patients.
“We will have a positive test result in this region; it’s just a matter of time, and so we’re in the containment phase, the social distancing, all those things about hand washing and other things were mentioned they have to be happening now," Carilion Clinic Medicine Department Chair Dr. Paul Skolnik said.
Tests are still limited to those who meet testing criteria due to a limited number of kits.
Carilion said although there are no confirmed cases of the virus in our region, hospital personnel are acting as if the virus is already here to be most prepared. Staff are being quarantined after possible exposure - it’s happened to about 100 people so far - and the hospital is adding more space for ICU patients.
“We’re developing plans to reapportion bed space at Roanoke Community Hospital, and to convert beds to Roanoke Memorial Hospital to ICU levels of care," CEO Nancy Agee said.
Roanoke Memorial Hospital has about 150 ICU beds as it is, and it could bring on about 60 more beds at Community Hospital if needed. Carilion is also creating a dedicated testing site for care providers to refer patients who meet the testing criteria, like showing symptoms and having traveled, in one single place.
Despite a rumor, the hospital said it’s not mass discharging patients to make room for more.
“We will not change the way we care for our patients, if a patient needs to be admitted we will admit them and when they are ready for discharge, they will be discharged, not dependent upon we’re going to free up this bed sooner," Carilion Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrice Weiss said.
Dr. Skolnik said the community should take this seriously now and be practicing social distancing and aggressive hand-washing as much as possible.
“They have to be preparing now. Now is the time for those things to be happening, not after we get our first test result," Dr. Skolnik said.
Of the about 100 patients still waiting to find out if their test is positive or not, some remain in the hospital while some others are at home.
“Whether someone’s hospitalized or at home is dependent on the severity of their illness, so the preference is if people can be at home that’s where they should be.," Dr. Skolnik said.
Some people have not stopped going to eat at restaurants, or going to drink at outdoor parties in the last few days, going against medical advice. From the President to the Mayor, Carilion is on board with the messaging. People should take this seriously.
“We put public health first, I think the three of us would say in stereo, wash your hands, keep surfaces clean, practice social distancing," Agee said.
Carilion said in a perfect world anyone who had contact with a confirmed patient would receive testing whether they showed symptoms or not. But at this point because of the limited number of tests, that’s not possible.