New COVID-19 case reported on WhidbeyHealth surgical team
— Created September 30, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
A member of the surgical services team at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center in Coupeville has tested positive for COVID-19.
An announcement was made on WhidbeyHealth’s social media over the weekend, followed by a press release from Island County Public Health Monday. It appears the individual contracted the virus outside of work and immediately left work to self-quarantine upon the onset of symptoms. Island County Public Health was immediately informed.
“Island County Public Health staff conducted the case investigation for the positive case at the hospital and started contact tracing on Saturday,” said ICPH Director Keith Higman. “We will follow both the case and contacts for a period of 14 days as we would for any other case of COVID-19 in the county. We have been working closely with hospital staff since Friday.”
According to the release, it appears exposure of patients and staff was limited to people who were in the operating room between Sept. 22-24, although it is not yet clear how many people may have come in contact with the individual.
“I cannot give you an accurate count at this time because the list of people who may have been exposed continues to shrink as we continue with the intricate process of contact tracing,” Nic Wildeman, WhidbeyHealth Community Relations representative, told Whidbey Weekly via email. “‘Exposure’ is defined as being in fewer than six feet proximity for a sustained period of 15 minutes or more. As you can imagine, there are employees in the department who never came near the staff member who tested positive and therefore were not exposed. The process of tracing is very detailed and requires that people reconstruct their day(s) nearly minute-to-minute.”
Wildeman said WhidbeyHealth acted promptly, taking several steps to contain the spread of the virus, which were outlined in the WhidbeyHealth statement released Sunday:
– Everyone affected has been contacted and patients can choose to obtain testing; all exposed staff members have been tested and are self-quarantining at home.
– WhidbeyHealth is working with Island County Public Health to assist with contact tracing.
– Elective surgeries and non-urgent visits to the surgery, obstetrics and orthopedic clinics have been postponed until Oct. 7. However, urgent and emergency surgeries and care for women in labor will continue.
-Visitors are limited to one support person per patient in the Medical Center and all clinics.
“Delaying of elective surgeries until Oct. 7 is implemented to integrate the Centers for Disease Control recommendation of 14 days in quarantine,” Wildeman said.
In addition, the West Wind Café and Gift Shop have been closed to the public, but that is NOT related to the positive COVID-19 test.
“It is very important to mitigate the spread of seasonal flu – even more important in the context of the pandemic,” said Wildeman. “Closing public access to the cafeteria and gift shop are precautions which are identical to those we took in the height of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year. This decision was timely and not related to the employee who became infected.”
WhidbeyHealth officials say it is important people continue to seek care; delaying health care could worsen a patient’s condition.
“WhidbeyHealth has proven for months that we can operate a safe medical environment to care for the community – regardless of the challenges of the pandemic,” Wildeman said. “Among other precautions, we have: Met the need for extensive use of PPE for staff and patients; implemented new systems to screen people who enter any WhidbeyHealth facility, including staff, who are screened every time they come to work; acquired and deployed innovative technologies to sanitize patient rooms including dry fogging delivery of disinfectant through any space; equipped additional rooms with negative pressure air handling to prevent airborne pathogens from leaving an isolation room.; and reconfigured spaces throughout facilities to accommodate spatial distancing.”
Wildeman encourages people to watch for updates from WhidbeyHealth on its Facebook page as well as on its website, www.whidbeyhealth.org.
The total number of people in Island County who have contracted COVID-19 thus far stands at 316 (as of Whidbey Weekly’s press deadline); 12 people have died. Public health officials recommend people continue to follow suggested guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Our messages to Island County residents as we see more cases increase in our community are to remain vigilant in wearing masks, staying home when possible, washing your hands frequently, limiting travel, and avoiding congregating with people outside of your home,” Higman said.