On Your Health

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INTEGRIS Health Leaders Give Update on COVID-19 in Oklahoma City

INTEGRIS Health leadership held a press conference this week on the INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center campus to provide the latest and most accurate info on COVID-19 to the citizens of Oklahoma City.

The most important message was this: Oklahomans who are showing only mild symptoms should not go to the emergency room. “We need to maintain capacity as a medical community to provide the care for the people who are showing severe symptoms,” said Tim Pehrson, President and CEO of INTEGRIS Health.

Others from the INTEGRIS team who attended the press conference to communicate this imperative included Dr. David Chansolme, Medical Director for Infection Prevention; Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, Chief Physician Executive; and Kerri Bayer, Chief Nurse Executive.

The INTEGRIS officials said they are currently seeing a surge of patients to the ER who are nervous or scared about COVID-19, or who have only mild symptoms similar to the common cold or flu.

According to Chansolme, it’s only severe symptoms like the following that should warrant a trip to the ER. "If you have difficulty breathing, if you have persistent pain or pressure in your chest, if you have confusion, if you have bluish lips or face, then it's time to go to the emergency room."

Pehrson said that roughly 80% of people who contract COVID-19 will not need hospital treatment. If your symptoms are mild, the best thing to do is treat it like any other virus and stay home, get rest, stay hydrated, use over-the-counter cold and flu medications to treat your symptoms, and most importantly, avoid being around other people to spread the disease since you are contagious.

In fact, even if someone is showing no symptoms of the coronavirus, the number one thing all citizens can do right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is stay home and practice social distancing, which means at least 6 feet of space between individuals at all times. As Chansolme said, “The actions we take today will help to change the course of the pandemic as it becomes more and more problematic in our state.”

INTEGRIS officials also implored the public to help “flatten the curve” of the disease’s progression and stop its spread by washing their hands very often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Liquid soap is best, although bars of soap and powdered soaps will work. Hand sanitizer is the next, less-effective option, but is still better than nothing, if it’s made of 60% alcohol or more.

The INTEGRIS officials also discussed the limited number of tests and equipment that are currently available. Although they are waiting on more tests from federal and state governments, there is a worldwide shortage, so currently they must preserve supplies to be ready for a coming surge of people who show severe symptoms or have underlying risk factors. As of now, the only patients who will be tested are those over the age of 65, have other chronic medical conditions, or show severe symptoms of coronavirus. People who have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, but have mild or no symptoms, may not be tested.

Although this information might cause discomfort in the Oklahoma City community, the doctors confirmed that the test is not going to determine a potential patient’s treatment. It simply tells doctors if you do or don’t have the virus. As Chansolme said, “Testing is not going to curb the epidemic. My fear is that everyone is going to congregate to get a test. It doesn’t really matter if you have a positive or negative test. What’s going to fix the problem is washing your hands and staying away from other people.”

The officials from INTEGRIS also confirmed they are modeling a number of contingency plans to happen if their frontline staff becomes ill with the virus, including redeploying caregivers to other areas where there are critical needs for more staffing support.

Finally, Pehrson reiterated that the entire community needs to follow strict guidelines if the epidemic is going to be curbed. “If you get sick, what do you do? You stay home. If you feel like you need additional care, reach out by phone or a video visit and talk to a provider. If you feel like you’re having the severe symptoms we mentioned, THEN you need to come to the ER and get care.”

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