WRH to begin testing for COVID-19; DCSS system to close March 17

Published 5:32 pm Friday, March 13, 2020

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UPDATE, March 16: This story was updated to include that Demopolis City Schools will be closed beginning Tuesday, March 17.

Local officials from across Marengo County are working together, and with state officials, on implementing plans and strategies for dealing with the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Friday afternoon, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that schools across the state would be closed for about two and half weeks beginning Thursday, March 19. On Monday, March 16, the Demopolis City School System announced it would be closing for classes beginning Tuesday, March 17. The system will implement a School Closure Feeding Program beginning Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, March 20 and Monday, March 23 through Friday March 27. The feeding program will be closed during the week of Spring Break, March 30 through April 3.

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“We will be serving drive-thru curbside meals to be picked-up in front of Westside Elementary and U.S. Jones Elementary Schools between 10:30 a.m. and noon daily. Parents can pick up meals for any child 18 years old or under,” according to an DCSF announcement.

Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff said school officials will evaluate the situation during the regular-scheduled spring break on whether students will return to class on April 6.

The local school board had already canceled all out-of-town field trips. With the official closing of schools, all other school-related activities are canceled or possibly postponed to a later date.

Whitfield Regional Hospital is also working to assist the public and to protect their patients and employees.

Currently, the hospital has 50 COVID-19 test kits available for those who receive an order from their primary care physician. The testing will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning Monday. Those who receive an order from their doctor will be tested in a drive-up method in an effort to prevent possible spread inside the hospital. Hospital officials said they expect to receive additional test kits and will extend the test times if needed.

The testing will involve a swab, which will be sent to a lab for testing. It will take about three to five days to receive the results, which will be sent to the primary care physician.

The staff conducting the tests will be wearing personal protection clothing and masks.

After a specimen is collected, most people will be asked to go home and self-isolate while the test is being conducted to determine if they have the virus. Those patients with serious symptoms will be isolated in a hospital setting so that treatment for underlying conditions can occur while test results are pending.

“Our hospital has taken every precaution to provide for the safety of our patients and our staff,” said WRH CEO Doug Brewer. “We do understand the precautions that must be taken in terms of isolating patients, limiting visitors and having employees wear protective clothing. Plans are in place.”

Hospital officials are also asking the public to not enter the emergency room if they have flu-like symptoms. If those symptoms are present, and ER is needed, a bell has been placed to receive a mask prior to entering.

While the elderly and those with existing health conditions are at the highest risk of complications from the new coronavirus, most others will need to focus on limiting their exposure to others.

“The best place to receive treatment is at home. Most people (with the virus) will simply be asked to stay at home and away from people,” Brewer said.

The hospital is working on contingency plans to handle additional patients if needed.

“This is nothing new for us, just that the virus is new,” Brewer said.

The hospital urges the public to follow the state’s guidelines if they feel sick:

  • Call your doctor and get directions on what to do next
  • If your doctor’s office is closed, call an urgent care center or your local hospital. If you don’t need to see a doctor, keep your distance from others.
  • Wear a mask and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.