EL CENTRO — A day after public health officials in Riverside County confirmed the first locally acquired case of COVID-19, a patient here is being tested for the virus.
El Centro Regional Medical Center announced Sunday that a patient met criteria for testing for the COVID-19 in Imperial Valley.
The patient, a woman in her 70s, came to the hospital’s emergency room Sunday morning with a complaint of side pain, Dr. Adolphe Edward, Chief Executive Officer at ECRMC said. The patient had recently returned from Florida.
Edward said the hospital followed established protocols by the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient was masked and isolated.
The hospital said its staff followed proper protocols by immediately contacting the hospital’s infection prevention nurse who then contacted the Imperial County Public Health Department.
Staff from the ICPHD provided a test kit that was used on the patient, and then sent to an approved lab for testing. Results of the test will be available within 48 hours.
“We will have access to the results back from the county and our San Diego lab probably on Tuesday evening, and we’ll make sure that we share with everybody,” Edward said. “For now, the patient is resting very well, doing very well.”
Edward stressed that the patient has not tested positive for COVID-19 and that all steps taken in the case to this point have been precautionary. “When we get the results, then let’s talk about the results.”
However, he did say if the patient does test positive, then she would be placed in quarantine for 14 days, per CDC guidelines, and likely treated with antibiotics to address secondary infections.
There is not specific treatment for COVID-19, Edward said. “But we know the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of (Allergy and) Infectious Diseases are all working right now with many folks to put together a treatment protocol. … So the good news is the healthcare system is working super hard to get ahead of the curve of COVID-19 to ensure we’re doing the right things,” he said.
On Thursday, Imperial County and its Public Health Department issued a joint release declaring and local health emergency and proclaiming a local emergency — two distinct but related measures — in response to COVID-19. They are expected to be ratified at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
“Last week local county officials declared a local health emergency in response to the COVID-19 virus, although at the time there were no known cases of the disease in the county, but the declaration does help mobilize resources when needed” Edward said. “This action, and the action of our staff on Friday to inspect emergency equipment, prepares ECRMC to quickly respond to this disease.”
Both ECRMC and Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley are following isolation precautions and limiting visitors. Those precautions started last week.
Meanwhile, County of Riverside Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser on Sunday declared a local health emergency in that county a day after the first locally acquired case of COVID-19 was announced there.
The individual, who is not being identified because of confidentiality rules, tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently undergoing care at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage. Public Health is following up on people who may have been exposed and an investigation is in progress to determine how the individual contracted COVID-19.
This is the second case overall recorded in Riverside County; a former cruise ship passenger from Riverside County was diagnosed with COVID-19 recently and is recovering at a Northern California medical facility. That individual has not returned to Riverside County since leaving the cruise ship.
“We have always known this was a possibility,” Kaiser said of the first locally acquired case. “We have been planning for weeks and are prepared to take the necessary steps to protect the health of our local community.”
Lee Rice, public information officer for Eisenhower, said: “Eisenhower Health is currently treating a patient who is considered a presumptive positive for coronavirus after testing by Riverside County Public Health. The patient is in isolation and Eisenhower staff have taken appropriate precautions in the treatment of this patient. No further information about the patient will be provided at this time.
“We ask the community to remember that Eisenhower’s medical professionals treat patients with infectious diseases every day and are prepared to care for our community members. Eisenhower continues to work closely with Riverside County Public Health, California Department of Public Health and within CDC guidelines.”
Earlier this week, Riverside County officials activated a medical health department operations center to better coordinate public messaging and planning among community partners as Riverside County officials prepare for the spread of the illness.
“We are trained and prepared to respond to these situations. We have been in communication with hospitals and healthcare providers in Riverside County and have provided them with the information and resources they need. Protecting the health of Riverside County remains our top priority,” said Kim Saruwatari, public health director.
ECRMC’s Edward urged the public not lose perspective and give in to panic as the novel coronavirus comes closer to home. “Our health system has a very robust infectious disease nursing teams who have gone through a lot of things, including heavy seasons for flu. This is a lot less than the heavy seasons of flu,” he said.
“Frankly speaking, we’ve lived through worse, so we’re going to get through this.”