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As the 2019 novel coronavirus – COVID-19 – continues to spread, Dr. Keith Ramsey, infection control chief for Vidant Health, said all Vidant facilities are prepared to treat patients who have the new virus. 

“Vidant’s process and protocol for COVID-19 is similar to that of flu,” Ramsey said. “Our team members are trained and prepared for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. This includes safely transferring the patient if needed, prepping isolation rooms, placing the patient in isolation, wearing masks and gowns and taking all necessary steps to protect patients, visitors and team members.”

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases: fever, cough and shortness of breath. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the risk of getting COVID-19 in the United States is currently low. Most cases – more than 80 percent – are mild and similar to the common cold but can cause serious complications for older people who have other ailments.

The CDC said that if a person has symptoms, has been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19, lives in, or recently traveled to, an area with ongoing spread, they should call ahead to a health care professional. 

Your health care professional will work with the public health department, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and CDC to determine if a test is needed.

Currently, Vidant does not have tests that can detect COVID-19 but sends samples to the North Carolina State Lab for testing. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services also reports confirmed cases across the state.

Ramsey said Vidant has an adequate number of masks and gowns across the system and has an emergency response supply, if needed. He said the health system started proactively preparing for the new virus since early January. 

Vidant is following recommendations from the CDC and the state and is closely aligned with county health departments.

“One of the most important things for people to do is to remain calm,” Ramsey said. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. The CDC did say that there will likely be some community spread in the United States. Our hospitals are prepared for all possibilities.”

Ramsey also said education and prevention are key to controlling unnecessary panic. He said it is important that those in the community understand the difference between COVID-19 and the more common term coronavirus, which is closely associated with the common cold.

As for prevention, the CDC recommends common sense preventative measures such as washing your hands and fingers tips for 20 seconds, coughing into your sleeve, not touching your face, staying home if you are sick and monitoring the CDC and NCDHHS websites for the latest news and information.