North Texas Medical Center spokeswoman Kristi Rigsby announced late Friday afternoon, March 13, that the hospital is making changes in light of COVID-19.
Rigsby’s release says the hospital at 1900 Hospital Blvd. is limiting entry and will screen everyone for the COVID-19 core indicators.
Core indicators include a fever of 100.4 or greater, persistent cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, having contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently visited an area where COVID-19 spread is ongoing, according to the release.
“At this time, we have not had any confirmed COVID-19 patients in the hospital,” the release states. “We are fully operational for inpatient and outpatient services. However, patients with scheduled outpatient services may be asked to reschedule their service if they present with any of the core indicators.”
Hospital officials say patients should not come to the emergency room to test for COVID-19 unless they are in respiratory distress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention make the decision on if an individual should be tested, according to NTMC.
“If you are not in respiratory distress, but you think you have the core symptoms and you meet the contact criteria, please contact the CDC or private laboratory for testing,” the release states. The CDC’s number is 1-800-232-4636. The hospital said LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics currently provide tests in the area.
Medical professionals say COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has similar symptoms to influenza.
They each range from mild to severe illness and even death. Both viruses are also transmitted by contact, droplets from sneezes and coughs and contact with surfaces that can carry the infection such as clothing and furniture.
According to the Texas Medical Association, the flu has a shorter incubation period from infection to diagnosable symptoms and can take three days to spread from person to person. The flu spreads faster than COVID-19, which can take five to six days to spread person to person. Also, flu can be transmitted before someone has symptoms, a major factor in the spread of influenza, according to TMA, the largest state medical society in the nation. As a result, children, pregnant women, elderly people, patients with chronic medical conditions and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk to catch the flu.
The TMA says that the World Health Organization reports a COVID-19 carrier can shed the virus 24 to 48 hours prior to symptom onset, reducing the threat of transmission to other people. Pre-symptomatic transmission of the flu is three to five days. However, when COVID-19 symptoms appear, the range of illness severity is proportionately different than the flu. WHO data suggests that 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild or asymptomatic, but 15% are severe infections requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections requiring intensive care.
Cleaning high-contact surfaces, washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue are ways to help prevent transmitting the disease to others. Doctors also recommend staying home if sick.
On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide emergency due to the new coronavirus outbreak and President Donald Trump declared the new coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.
As of press time Friday, there were at least 39 cases of COVID-19 in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Muenster Memorial Hospital CEO Brian Roland said Friday afternoon that his hospital is “working on some process and policy changes for visitation.” However, they were not finalized yet, Roland said. He also said the hospital at 605 N. Maple St. had not seen any patients that have met the COVID-19 criteria.
A full list of changes at NTMC, including visitation hours, can be found attached to this story.