By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
The Bolivar County Board of Supervisors approved Monday a declaration of emergency on the coronavirus outbreak this week at the recommendation of Bolivar County Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Lamb.
The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed two cases of Novel Coronavirus among county residents and included them in the 34 total cases as of Wednesday, which is one week after the first confirmed case.
In light of the new cases, Bolivar Medical Center CEO Rob Marshall announced on its website more precautionary steps to ones mentioned at the supervisors’ meeting.
These new precautions took effect at midnight Thursday.
The BMC will now have limited entry points. Everyone will enter the facility through the Emergency Room as all other entry points will be closed.
In addition, all patients and staff entering the facility will be screened with questions regarding respiratory symptoms and travel history, per CDC recommendations. Patients with symptoms will immediately be provided masks and managed per CDC guidelines. Screening will occur upon every entry
Adult patients will NOT be permitted to have visitors. Pediatric patients will be permitted to have only two visitors; both must be parents, guardians, or caregivers.
At Monday’s supervisor meeting, Marshall said, “We have tasks force at the hospital including clinicians (and) physicians who have been working for the last two weeks trying to understand the best way to contain coronavirus.
“What I can say, what we’ve learned the best strategy is containment. Limiting your exposure to others that might be carrying. It’s just common sense. It’s no time to panic but it’s time to be smart.”
Common areas at the hospital will be closed to visitors and the cafeteria will be closed to the public.
There will be no visitors allowed to the long-term care patients due to their vulnerability.
All business travel for Bolivar Medical employees has been restricted.
To preserve resources, Bolivar Medical Center will not test for the coronavirus unless a person is reporting symptoms.
“One thing we’re seeing a lot of is everybody wants to be tested,” Marshall said. “We have had a huge influx of people who just wanted to be tested. That’s just not plausible. We don’t have enough resources, employees, test kits, the whole nine yards.
“Unless you are screened by a clinician and if you pass, you don’t have a fever and the other questions we’ve talked about, you’re not going to be tested. It would inundate our system and we would not be able to turn it around.”
Dr. Steven Clark said, “Just like the flu or other viral illnesses, just because you’re tested today doesn’t mean that tomorrow you can’t get it. Testing without any kind of exposure or symptoms really doesn’t do anything except use a test kit and maybe give you some false security.”
Clark said there is a lot about the virus that is simply unknown, so the best strategy is to contain it.
Marshall said if someone is experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus such as fever, coughing or shortness of breath, he strongly encourages that person to call the hospital ahead of time so they can prepare for their arrival.
A separate room has been set aside so arrival can be contained from people who may be waiting in the emergency room.
Marshall said BMC has been in constant contact with the Mississippi State Department of Health and its partners, but the hospital’s resources will be limited especially in the case of a statewide outbreak.
“We’re a 200-bed hospital and 35 of those are long-term care,” Marshall said. “That’s what it is. We only have a certain amount of ventilators. We only have 11 ICU beds. It’s just one of those things where now is when we have to start containing this thing and hope we never have to get there. That’ll be a tough time. What you read is not out of the realm of possibility.”
EMA Director Michael Lamb sent out a press release on Wednesday announcing that both the Cleveland and Rosedale Courthouses will have limited access for the time being.
Both courthouses will use only the west entrances, and Bolivar County Sheriff Deputies will be posted at each entrance to enforce the restrictions and prevent loitering.
Lamb encouraged anyone with business at either courthouse to call ahead of time to help manage traffic.
“The Center for Disease and Control Prevention updates their website daily,” Lamb said. “I encourage the citizens to visit their website for information on how to prevent illness, what to do if you are sick and how to keep your work place and community safe.”
The recommended websites are www.cdc.gov and the Mississippi State Department of Health’s website at www.msdh.ms.gov
“We are asking for our citizens to stay calm, focused and to stay tuned to these websites for correct information. I will continue to keep working alongside with the Mississippi Department of Health and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in gathering updated information and any assistance from them that we can. Thank you all with your assistance with this matter.”