By Ben Olson
*Updated 3:50 p.m.
Gov. Brad Little announced Friday at 3 p.m. that Idaho had reported its first positive test results for the coronavirus. Gov. Little is expected to give an address at 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Friday, March 13 about the positive test result. The United States has reported a total of 1,629 reported cases of the virus, as of Friday, March 13 at 1 p.m., with 41 confirmed deaths — most occurring in Washington state.
Locally, Bonner General Health has erected a tent south of its emergency room as a precautionary quarantine measure amid the ongoing spread of coronavirus across the globe.
“The tent is set up for us to be prepared,” Erin Binall, BGH community development manager told the Reader. “It’s for prevention purposes only. We want our staff to feel comfortable and prepared for any scenario that comes our way.”
A press released stated the purpose of the tent was “for the ability to screen and test for potential COVID-19 and avoid contaminating the emergency department staff, patients and hospital.”
Statewide, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare tweeted that, “As of [Friday] morning, Idaho state lab has tested 118 samples for novel #coronavirus, and private labs have tested 13.”
Binall said BGH has contracted with the Mayo Clinic to offer commercial testing for patients with insurance.
“That may be an option if the state lab decides not to test a patient due to low risk,” Binall said. “Part of this is the fact that the cost of the test is pretty high.”
Gov. Brad Little hosted a news conference earlier on March 13 in Boise, where he gave updates on the coronavirus situation in Idaho, stating that he is “creating a working group of our agencies, leaders in health care, education, business and local governments to make sure all communities are prepared.”
BGH committees working on the virus are also meeting frequently to help keep ahead of the information curve.
“Right now our incident command is meeting weekly and subcommittees are meeting multiple times a day,” Binall said. “We’re working close with Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health so everything we’re doing aligns with our regional partners.”
Binall said the situation is “changing daily,” and urges anyone experiencing symptoms to first call ahead to the emergency department at 208-265-1020 to receive instructions about where to get tested and treated.
Symptoms include a fever greater than 101 degrees, lower respiratory illness, a new cough, new shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or travel to an infected area within 14 days. Thursday, BGH implemented “soft visitor restrictions” out of an abundance of caution to help mitigate the spread of the disease. Restrictions include no visitors under the age of 18 allowed in the hospital unless they have a scheduled appointment, procedure or need emergency services; only one visitor per patient in ICU, Medical Surgical and Surgery departments and two visitors allowed for OB patients.
Those seeking information about the coronavirus can call a dedicated helpline set up by the Panhandle Health District at 877-415-5225, or visit the new state website coronavirus.idaho.gov for real-time updates on the spread of the virus.
“The most important thing is, if you’re sick, don’t go to work,” Binall said. “And don’t forget to wash your hands.”
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SHOW SYMPTOMS:
-Call your primary care doctor and report your symptoms
-If your doctor orders a COVID-19 test, call the emergency department before you arrive – (208)265-1020
-When you arrive at the emergency department, stay in your car, call the emergency department at the above listed number and staff will come to you.
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