A second Stafford County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Virginia Department of Health, making it the third confirmed case in the Fredericksburg area.
That patient and a Stafford man in his 60s, who was diagnosed at Stafford Hospital on Sunday, are being treated at Mary Washington Hospital. The area’s first patient, a Spotsylvania County man in his 50s who works in Northern Virginia, was diagnosed at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center last week.
No other information about the latest patient or updates on the earlier two cases was available from the Rappahannock Area Health District on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mary Washington Healthcare, which owns Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital, has canceled all elective procedures, joining health care systems nationwide that have made the same decision. In addition, it is facing a shortage of personal protective equipment and blood supply, said Marketing Director Lisa Henry.
“We have to make critical decisions, knowing there’s yet to be a surge of patients, so it’s important to make that call now before we use up our precious supply,” she said.
Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center is continuing with elective procedures at this point.
MWH patients had been calling to reschedule surgeries such as knee replacements, Henry said. She stressed that medically needed procedures, such as tumor removals or treatment of bone breaks after accidents, will still be scheduled.
In addition, Mary Washington Hospital is setting up a field hospital in its first-level parking garage near the emergency room entrance. If hospitals statewide determine things are in crisis status—and that determination has not been made yet—patients exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 would be screened there with the hopes that those who have mild or moderate cases could be treated and discharged, Henry said. Those requiring more extreme measures would be moved into the hospital.
“We hope to not have to use it,” Henry said.
Spotsylvania Regional currently has the beds, staffing, supplies and equipment it needs, but is looking into best practices prescribed by its parent company, HCA Healthcare, as “part of our surge planning,” said Marketing Director Jael Cooper. If more staff is needed, Spotsylvania Regional can draw from HCA’s network of traveling and agency nurses, she said.
Spotsylvania Regional workers also are being asked to conserve personal protective equipment by “following, but not exceeding, the guidelines for infection prevention,” Cooper said. HCA Healthcare is working to secure other sources of supplies and equipment, she added.
In the midst of the pandemic, residents are reminded that almost no visitors are allowed into local hospitals and hospital-type settings. The exceptions are women in labor, who can have their support person with them, and pediatric patients, who can have a parent or guardian with them.
Carol Fisher of Spotsylvania County was distraught to learn that this week. An ambulance on Monday brought her 87-year-old companion to Mary Washington Hospital for internal bleeding, and she couldn’t get past the doors to help with his registration, inform staff of his allergies or keep him company.
She said she understands that circumstances are critical worldwide, but said they’re also tough for older patients who may be confused about their health situations and depressed about being alone. Fisher wondered if exceptions could be made for the elderly.
“Especially in the case of an 87-year-old man who could die any day? In the last few days of his life, he’s gotta be alone?” she asked.
Meanwhile, King George officials talked about rumor control Tuesday night in wake of word spreading like wildlife that a county resident had a confirmed case. A business posted on Facebook that one of its employees had COVID-19, but county officials who contacted the local health district learned that wasn’t true.
“Anybody who has a fever, cough, shortness of breath, that doesn’t mean you have the coronavirus,” King George Fire Chief David Moody told the Board of Supervisors.
Indeed, there are many types of coronavirus, including ones that cause the common cold, the illness known as the bird flu and another dubbed a Middle-Eastern respiratory illness, MWH’s Henry said. They’re different from the virus that causes COVID-19, but patients understandably get anxious when they see the word “coronavirus” as a diagnosis.
King George Supervisor Annie Cupka asked if there’s a way to avoid “the rumor mill like we had today” and stress how COVID-19 cases are confirmed.
Because of a limited number of test kits, not all with applicable symptoms are tested. Often patients are told, as Spotsylvania County resident Candice Choiniere, was last week, that symptoms are caused by a virus that has to run its course and to not seek medical treatment unless they have trouble breathing.
Choiniere, 49, has underlying lung-related issues and developed more intense symptoms last week, but couldn’t get a COVID-19 test, even after she visited her doctor and was told by her physician and a health department official to get tested at an emergency room.
The test kits are sent to the state’s lab or commercial facilities, and results go to the Virginia Department of Health, which is the only agency that’s supposed to release information about COVID-19 cases to the public. Every day at noon, the state health department updates its website, vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus, vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.
As of noon Wednesday, there were 77 cases in Virginia after 1,278 people had been tested. Two people, both in the Peninsula Health District near Williamsburg, have died from the disease.