Coronavirus: Upper Valley Medical Center opens surge unit

One new COVID-19 case reported in Miami County

With the surge in COVID-19 cases in Miami County, Upper Valley Medical Center near Troy has opened a respiratory surge unit for high-risk respiratory patients.

The coronavirus outbreak has spread quickly and lead to an increase in patients with the highly contagious respiratory illness, as well as hospitalized patients suspected to be sick from the illness and awaiting test results.

On Thursday Piqua health officials announced the city’s first positive case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The woman is a 38-year-old employee of Koester Pavilion, one of two Miami County nursing homes where a coronavirus outbreak is occurring and four residents died. The woman is isolated at home and Miami County Public Health officials said it is the only newly confirmed case in the county.

Like Upper Valley Medical Center, other U.S. hospitals have engaged in similar practices of sorting out COVID-19 patients, which helps keep the virus contained.

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Tom Parker, president of the hospital that’s part of Dayton-based Premier Health, said the hospitals are following CDC guidelines to identify and isolate patients who might be contagious, and to prevent unnecessary exposure so that patients affected by COVID-19 will be able to get the care they need while protecting staff.

“We are blessed to have the expertise and compassion of our outstanding physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals and support staff who are on the front lines of this ongoing battle. They are truly community heroes who are putting their own challenges aside to continue to make a profound difference during this extremely difficult time,” Parker said in a statement, adding that they are “are extremely appreciative of the support we have received from our local and state public health officials.”

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As a preventive measure, the emergency department is splitting patients coming in with respiratory infections and flu-like symptoms to keep them separate from other patients and protect staff.

Staff are wearing masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment according to CDC guidelines. The hospital said in a statement that it is conserving supplies, and none of them are at critically low levels.

Miami County cluster outbreak

There is a cluster outbreak of COVID-19 at Premier Health’s two nursing homes, SpringMeade Health Center in Tipp City and Koester Pavilion in Troy. Five people are hospitalized, and more than two dozen other residents, staff and visitors are being monitored after possibly being exposed.

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“In the coming days and weeks, there will be an increase in positive COVID-19 cases associated with community spread. This is expected and not a cause for alarm,” according to the news release from Miami County Public Health. “This will be from the continued testing that is done for those with COVID-19 symptoms.”

Health officials say monitoring of potentially exposed nursing home staff or visitors who are not from Miami County is being handled by the individual’s home county public health officials, so they are not sure of the total numbers. A 56-year-old Miami County man who had traveled overseas and has no connection with the nursing homes also has tested positive and is quarantined at home.

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“We expect to see more local cases as this outbreak evolves, and are working diligently to respond to the situation and protect the health and safety of our community,” said Amy Welker, Piqua health and sanitation director.

Since March 19 four Miami County nursing home residents have died and are confirmed  COVID-19 cases, Miami County Coroner William Ginn said. They are: Hazel Begovich, 88, a resident of SpringMeade who died Wednesday; and Koester residents Alan Shump, 88, of Troy, who died Sunday; Earl Bolinger, 93, who died March 19; and Glenn Witters, 83, who died March 20.

The county public health news release also reminded people with COVID-19 symptoms to first call their health care provider. If symptoms are mild they should stay at home and treat themselves, but seek medical attention if symptoms become severe.

“It is important that everyone follow the stay-at-home order,” the news release said. “By staying at home and practicing social distancing, we can help flatten the curve for Ohio and lessen the burden on the health care system.”

See more stories by Lynn Hulsey and Kaitlin Schroeder