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Measures have helped county avoid hospital surge, AdventHealth leader says

Henderson County has seen success limiting community spread of the coronavirus and preventing a surge of patients that would overwhelm its two hospitals, AdventHealth’s chief medical officer told community leaders Thursday.

Speaking during the Land of Sky Regional Council’s weekly Covid-19 response meeting by Zoom, Dr. Teresa Herbert said AdventHealth and Pardee UNC Health have been spared a large spike in cases, patients, ICU use and need for ventilators that many health care professionals predicted two months ago.
“We’re moving from containment to recovery,” Herbert said.
She said she’s heard people express concern about Henderson County’s high number of Covid-19 cases and deaths. Smaller Henderson County had 140 cases with 13 deaths on Thursday. Buncombe County reported 49 cases with 3 deaths. (Henderson County’s total number of cases rose to 156 at the health department’s posting at 5 p.m. Thursday.) The Hendersonville Lightning reported Sunday that Henderson County had the highest mortality rate in the state among counties with at least 100 Covid-19 cases.
“The reason we have a larger number of cases in Henderson County is because we have a really great collaboration with our health department to go in to where there have been outbreaks,” Herbert said. “We’ve been able to manage patients in their homes and keep them in their homes so we can avoid the surge. We’re not seeing a lot of community spread. The ICU right now has very few patients.” Pardee is “in the same situation. There is not a lot of community spread right now. That has really saved lives. If you look down at Greenville County, things are very very different. The hospitals are very busy.”
Someone attending the Zoom meeting asked Herbert how many Covid-19 patients were currently under treatment in the intensive care units of AdventHealth and other hospitals?
“None now,” at Advent, she said. “Pardee has a couple and Mission a handful. Patients in ICU are related to the long term care facilities. They were known to be infected when they came into the facility.”
Herbert and Michael Duncan, a registered nurse and Advent’s infection preventionist, told the elected leaders and local government managers that standard guidelines could help businesses and other organizations safely reopen.

Duncan advised businesses and other organizations to put in place protections similar to those AdventHealth and other providers use: temperature checks and standard questions for all employees before entering, social distancing, use of masks and other personal protection equipment for those in contact with the public, aggressive and frequent disinfecting of high traffic areas, frequent hand washing and good hygiene in general, avoid discretionary travel, reduce business travel. Guidelines issued by the White House are available here.

A cloth masks is not as effective as a medical mask but it does help, Duncan said. He advised daily laundering of cloth masks.

“You may have employees who don’t want to wear them,” he said. “I assure you in the hospital we do not have that problem.” He recommended that business managers simply make the use of masks a policy and tolerate no exceptions.

Employees approaching the hospital are asked about symptoms, whether they’ve had contact with someone who has or has been exposed to Covid-19, whether they have lost their sense of taste or smell. Medical personnel take each person’s temperature.

“If they answer yes to any of our questions or if they have a fever we don’t let them in,” Duncan said.

Someone asked Duncan about the use of gloves.

"Wearing gloves in public can give you a false sense of security," he said. Medical professionals discard them after every patient or encounter and constantly wash their hands, he said. Frequent, compliant hand washing (20 seconds) is better.

“Unless you’re walking around with a large box of gloves and you’re able to wash your hands every time you touch someone, I wouldn’t recommend them," he said.

Graham Fields, assistant to the president of AdventHealth, told the community leaders that Advent is willing to partner with businesses and nonprofit organizations in guidance and resources to help them reopen.

“Our goal is (to have) a team that can work with businesses and nonprofits to look at ways to reopen,” he said. “Advent has developed a set of guidelines we’ve used at the hospital and best practices that could easily be applied to your business and organization.”