Schneck limits visitors as COVID-19 cases rise


Schneck Medical Center moved to more limited visitation this week due to increasing cases of COVID-19 at the hospital and in the community.

Hospital officials made the announcement Tuesday after resuming weekly community conference calls.

All visitors will be screened upon entry and must be 18 years or older, exhibit no symptoms of the virus or other illness and wear a mask while at the hospital.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

Only one visitor will be allowed per patient.

No visitors will be allowed for patients in isolation in an effort to conserve the hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment, including gowns, masks, gloves and face shields.

Patients with appointments at the hospital should arrive early to allow time for screening. All patients also must wear face masks.

Many of Schneck’s physicians are offering telehealth appointments to minimize the number of people visiting the hospital.

To take part in virtual appointments, patients must have a computer, tablet or phone equipped with a camera and a microphone. Patients interested in scheduling a telehealth appointment should contact their physician’s office.

Dr. Christopher Bunce, public health officer for the Jackson County Health Department, said the ongoing surge of positive cases in the county is part of the larger statewide surge, but Jackson County ranks in the top five worst counties in the state in terms of COVID activity.

Medical officials believe the increase is the result of a “wide disregard for social distancing and face coverings” along with increased social activity, including family gatherings, small festivals and music events and unsafe practices in the workplace, Bunce said.

“We don’t know how much things like weddings, funerals and church services might be playing a role, but we know that those are certainly areas where unwitting dissemination of the virus can occur,” he said.

He said collectively, the community needs to find ways to reduce crowds, improve physical distancing and strongly emphasize the wearing of masks.

“I think that we all have to kind of up our game a little bit because we’re seeing more hospitalizations,” he said. “What really concerns me is that statewide, we’re up to hospitalization levels from early May. Our usage of ICU beds and ventilators also has gone up statewide and locally. So this is not just a lot of positive tests. This is having consequences, and we’re seeing those consequences in all of our hospitals.”

Another step that needs to be strengthened is workplace screenings through temperature checks and symptom reviews to find out which employees are ill and making sure they are sent home.

Any worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 does not need to be retested or cleared by a medical professional after the 10 days of isolation to be able to come back to work, Bunce said.

“That is not required,” he said. “The key date is the onset of symptoms. After 10 days have gone by, people can go back to work if they have been without fever for 24 hours and are generally improving. They do not need to have any type of testing performed, and they do not need a clearance from the health department.”

Tammy Barker with Pet Supplies Plus Distribution in Seymour reported the company had three positive cases of COVID-19 last week for a total of four in the last two weeks.

“We continue to see an increase in the number of team members who are calling in sick,” she said. “I’m highly encouraging everyone that displays any symptoms of COVID to get tested.”

The biggest challenge she is facing is getting employees to wear face masks, she said.

Bunce said one of his biggest concerns involving the spread of the virus in workplaces is break room activity.

“People get closer together across the table from each other, they drop their masks in order to eat and they have conversations. All of those are COVID propagation behaviors,” he said.

Even by reducing the number of employees in a break room at one time, Bunce said it’s still a problem because people will still sit together to eat and talk.

“It’s a big problem, and I do believe that’s a vulnerable spot in every single workplace,” he said. “I think that’s one of our potential spreading problems.”

Sarah Miles from SpaceGuard Products said no employees have tested positive but said they were in need of guidance on what to tell employees in regards to flu symptoms versus COVID-19 symptoms.

“The symptoms are the same. You can’t tell the difference between the flu and COVID,” Bunce said. “Anybody with the flu stays home, anybody with a respiratory illness stays home and anybody with COVID symptoms stays home. If there is any doubt at all, these people should be tested.”

Miles said a lot of people are reluctant to get tested, however.

Local schools, in response to the increase in positive cases, switched to hybrid schedules with students attending in person and online.

Talmadge Reasoner, assistant principal at Seymour High School, said it has greatly reduced the density of students at the school.

“Our hallways are very bare, and our classrooms are even more so,” he said.

During the school day, students and staff are very aware of all of the safety protocols in place and abide by them, he said.

“We don’t have problems with masks,” he said. “They follow our rules and our directions, and so I feel like we have to do a better job educating the community on what to do after 3:30 p.m., on the weekends and during breaks.”

He hopes the hybrid schedule helps people realize the schools are serious about doing their part in reducing the spread of the virus.

“I feel like possibly this movement into the hybrid scheduling may reshock the system, I’m hoping, to remobilize our community in paying attention to these very simple things to do to protect us all and get our numbers back under control,” he said.

Bunce said even if the county was to move from its elevated orange level to red, he would recommend schools remain on a hybrid schedule.

Immanuel Lutheran School Principal Todd Behmlander said the school experienced its first positive student cases of COVID-19 after returning from fall break.

“We do have four students now who are positive,” he said. “We also have one teacher who is positive.”

The school also is reporting a high number, 33 of 295 students, who are out sick or in quarantine, he said.

“We do see that those cases came from community spread,” he said. “They didn’t come from within our building, so those students who are out, it’s definitely reflective of gatherings outside of the school.”

He also reported students are “excellent” when it comes to wearing masks.

No posts to display