Local hospitals prepare for potential coronavirus outbreak


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Coronavirus concerns are sweeping the nation as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise in the United States.

Health departments and hospitals everywhere are putting plans in place to deal with any possible community outbreaks.

Barry Knapp, a doctor in Sentara Norfolk General’s Emergency Department, says they are prepared.

“The good news is we know how to handle communicable and contagious diseases,” said Knapp. “We train for it, we have the proper personal protective gear to be able to do that for both our patients and our providers.”

Knapp says the hospital has a screening system in place for sick patients.

“That international travel, that fever, that cough, that shortness of breath are key indicators for us that we need to take the patient, we need to isolate them,” he said.

Patients that show signs of the virus will be put in negative pressure rooms, which essentially means the air stays in that room — it’s not circulated throughout the entire hospital.

Doctors and nurses will have access to protective gowns, specially-fitted face masks, eye protection and gloves.

Knapp says most people who get the coronavirus will have mild symptoms.

If they believe someone has it, they will rely on the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control for testing.

“We’re looking for severe signs and symptoms, we’re looking at x-rays and cat scans and there are typical patterns of the disease that we’re able to pick up from a clinical perspective even before the testing comes back,” said Knapp.

Knapp says it’s key that people self-monitor as hospital staff continue to prepare.

“We train for this everyday we’re in the emergency department looking for infectious diseases and virsues and bacteria,” said Knapp. “This is what we do and we’re comfortable doing it.”

You can check out the coronavirus tracking map here.

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