Here’s how regional medical providers will be moving forward in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak

SPOKANE, Wash. —  Regional medical providers gathered Monday to inform the public about their day-to-day operations as they navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Spokane Regional Health officer Dr. Bob Lutz said there are currently three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spokane County, with an additional case under investigation, but doctors told 4 News Now those numbers don’t tell the full story, thanks to a nationwide testing shortage.

“Right now, there is a severe shortage on the—it’s not a Q-Tip—but it’s like the Q-Tip that takes the supply and so because of that shortage, we’re recommending just testing for the critically ill in the hospital, in the ICU,” said Kaiser Permananente medical director Dr. David Ward. “If you’ve only tested—and I don’t have the numbers—but if you’ve only tested a thousand people and three are positive, we know that there’s more that are carrying the coronavirus in Spokane.”

Dr. Bob Lutz said there are people in the community who are not grasping the severity of this outbreak or the importance of social distancing. He believes that would change with more testing.

“Something as simple as a swab, a Q-Tip, I shouldn’t run out and yet we’re already finding ourselves sort of at a loss,” he said. “For the community to understand the severity of this, I need more testing to demonstrate that I have a significant amount of illness here to really then get people to hunker down the way they need to.”

C.H.A.S. Health will start to cut back on dental appointments to preserve personal protective equipment for staff since there is a national shortage. Chief clinical officer Dr. Deborah Wiser told reporters Monday the clinic will work with city officials to create testing locations for the homeless both downtown and away from central Spokane.

Kaiser Permanente will go “all virtual first” by Wednesday, March 18. This means all appointments will initially be held online or over the phone before patients go to a clinic, if at all.

“If you need something hands-on, we’ll be directing you to our one central location at Riverfront Hub,” said Dr. Ward. “So, our staff can adequately be protected with personal protective equipment and we can handle those needs that absolutely need the hands of a clinician.”

Dr. Ward said starting Wednesday, doctors and nurses will be standing by online 24/7 to talk with patients.

MultiCare will start limiting visitors at its hospitals. Those visitors will be screened as soon as they get there. The hospital will also begin limiting elective procedures to preserve personal equipment for doctors and nurses testing potential patients. Additionally, MultiCare has set up two respiratory clinics for those showing symptoms, but asks that patients call before coming in so they will be directed to the right place.

Providence Health will also enforce visitor restrictions. Chief operating officer Peg Curry  encouraged using online resources and self-isolating if necessary.

“I don’t think coming to the hospital is really the best place to socially distance yourself,” said Curry.

Representatives from the previously-listed medical providers encouraged all of their patients to call ahead before visiting a clinic or hospital.

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