The University of Utah Hospital has erected special tents to assess people who think they may have caught the coronavirus.
Intermountain Healthcare has told its medical staff to avoid traveling.
And the Davis County Health Department continues to contact the family and friends of the state’s first coronavirus patient, but so far it hasn’t found any additional cases.
All this since Friday, when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency connected to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.
The biggest response has been to get prepared, said Kathy Wilets, spokeswoman for the U.’s health care system.
The negative-pressure tents erected beside the hospital are a sign of the hospital’s “readiness,” Wilets said Sunday. “We needed to demonstrate what we are doing to be prepared in the event of an outbreak. So we created an area where our doctors and nurses could triage patients safely.”
The tents are intended to keep any potential COVID-19 patients away from the rest of the hospital.
Wilets said the U.’s hospital staff has been trained for an outbreak and has all the supplies it needs. Now, the focus is on educating the public on what to do if they have symptoms of the disease. Those symptoms are similar to the flu, and include fever, cough and sometimes shortness of breath.
“Our biggest message is to call your primary care provider first before going to the emergency room,” Wilets said. “Our doctors can give you guidance over the phone.”
If patients meet the criteria for the virus and are advised to go to the hospital, she said, “we can meet people in their cars for the test.”
The U. has already conducted several tests, she said, but they have all been negative.
Intermountain Healthcare has established some travel restrictions for its staff, said spokesman Daron Cowley, eliminating “all nonessential business travel and conference attendance within 60 days.”
Like the U., Intermountain has not experienced any shortages of equipment, Cowley said, and also urged possible infected persons to “call ahead rather than just showing up.”
One major concern of public health officials are people overwhelming hospitals when they could be treated at home.
Meanwhile, the Davis County Health Department “has contacted a number of people in contact with" the first Utahn believed to have COVID-19, said Dave Spence, the department’s deputy director. “The investigation is ongoing. We are waiting for information and seeing where it goes.”
Officials believe the Utahn, who is over 60, was exposed on a Grand Princess cruise ship — the same ship currently quarantined off the coast of California, but on a previous voyage — and has been back in the state for about a week. The person visited a health care provider Friday after being contacted by the cruise line about their risk. The person saw doctors and had “symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection.” A more detailed test is pending with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The patient was sent home to recover and is under a county-issued isolation order.
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Herbert on Saturday sent a letter to the state’s religious leaders, urging them to share with their congregations the information provided by the CDC and compiled by the Utah Department of Health on how to implement precautions.
“As faith leaders, you are on the front lines of tending to and caring for individuals and families across the state,” Herbert said in the letter. “... We are aware that many of you have been proactive and have already counseled your members, but additional information may help.”
Some religious leaders already have taken steps.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discouraged all international members and leaders from coming to Utah during this time, has closed several temples — including the one in Rome — and discontinued church services in the Seattle area.
Previously, Utah’s Catholic Bishop Oscar A. Solis issued a memorandum to all the priests and school principals about cautionary measures and guidelines to take, according to the Intermountain Catholic. A follow-up memo was sent Monday.
“Unless cautionary measures are called for, Communion will continue to be distributed according to the diocesan practice,” the memo said. “The communicant may receive the Host [sacramental bread] in the hand or on the tongue, and Communion will be offered under both [kinds].”
At the same time, Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott B. Hayashi wrote in a Facebook post that “people may consider refraining from receiving wine at Communion if they have concerns about the common cup," and that “Communion is complete with just one of the elements.”
While Utah has only one confirmed case of the coronavirus, more people have tested positive in the United States. As of Sunday afternoon, the number of confirmed cases has topped 530, and there are patients in 34 states. Twenty-one people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S.