Last week, a Rochester man who was exposed to the coronavirus and was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 failed to disclose signs of illness to medical personnel at Strong Memorial Hospital. The reason? He wanted to visit his wife, who was about to give birth in the maternity ward. He finally revealed his health status when his wife started to exhibit signs of COVID-19 soon after delivering their child. The situation illustrates the need for unprecedented caution with regard to the highly contagious virus.
Due to privacy laws, the hospital could not say if either parent or their baby has a confirmed case of COVID-19. They did confirm that the new mother has been discharged from the hospital. All healthcare workers on the maternity ward were told that they may have been exposed to the virus but were permitted to keep working if they had no symptoms of COVID-19. They were told to wear masks constantly and monitor their temperatures while on duty.
Fever is the most frequent early sign of the illness. A coronavirus test was administered to a nurse who came in contact with the family and the results were negative. Another staff member exhibited signs of respiratory problems and also tested negative for the virus, but was quarantined for a time out of caution.
Because of the potential seriousness of this incident, the University of Rochester (UR) Medicine hospital network, comprised of Strong and four other hospitals that offer maternity services, stated that all visitors must now submit to a temperature check before they can enter maternity wards. Previously, hospitals were engaging in an honor system — which was clearly ripe for abuse. All patients, visitors, and staff must also wear masks in public, patient-care areas, as mandated by UR Medicine and Rochester Regional Health. The new masking policy is not the result of the maternity ward incident.
According to a policy that is similar to those in other New York state hospitals, UR Medicine started two weeks ago to prevent most visitors from entering their facilities, in an effort to keep the coronavirus from spreading to high-risk patients and to medical personnel. The only visitors allowed are parents of a hospitalized child, a person whose family member is dying, and one significant other or doula to support a woman during and after delivering a baby. Staff inquired of these visitors if they had had contact with a confirmed or possible COVID-19 patient and if they were themselves healthy. They were permitted entry if they claimed that they had no symptoms and no contact with anyone who might have been infected by the virus.
Under the new policy, visitors will have their temperatures taken upon arrival, since fever is a symptom of COVID-19. After this initial check, their temperatures will be taken every 12 hours while they are in the facility. St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse is taking similar measures. Patients seeking entry to the emergency department must first be screened in a tent outside the building. Yet even these measures are hardly foolproof. While mold can develop and grow in just 48 hours, the highly contagious coronavirus that causes COVID-19 also spreads fast. People with the virus can appear to have no symptoms for as long as two weeks after they are infected.
A number of private hospitals have banned visitors from entering maternity wards. But on Saturday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that all facilities must permit healthy partners to join women who are delivering babies.
The number of COVID-19 patients in New York State is growing. Governor Cuomo stated that as of Wednesday, April 1, there were currently 83,712 confirmed cases in the state, an increase of 7,917 new cases since official numbers were reported on Tuesday. At last count, 1,941 people in the state have died of COVID-19, an increase of nearly 400 since Tuesday’s report. Of the total known cases, 12,226 patients have been hospitalized, and of those, 3,022 were treated in an intensive care unit (ICU). Approximately 220,880 coronavirus tests have been sent to New York state, 15,694 since Tuesday. The state is at the center of the COVID-19 crisis in this country.
Although the wellness market was worth $52.5 billion in 2019, New Yorkers — including residents of Rochester — are still clearly vulnerable to being infected by the coronavirus. In Monroe County, 359 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as of April 1, an increase of 59 from Tuesday. Of these patients, 62 have received treatment in a hospital, and 28 have been admitted to an ICU. Now, 10 deaths have been confirmed as a result of COVID-19.
Real estate brokerage firm Redfin reports that Rochester is the least at-risk urban economy in the United States with regard to the financial effects of the pandemic. Redfin states that affordable housing and less involvement in troubled industries will help Rochester absorb the financial impact of this health crisis. The job market in Rochester may also help some residents weather the economic storms. Although numerous businesses have closed in response to the pandemic and many workers have lost their jobs as a result, some industries are actively looking for new hires. Positions in health care and in retail settings like pharmacies and grocery stores are currently open. A recent survey found that 58% of U.S. workers left their positions because they stated that their employers didn’t offer them enough chances for growth. Now, some Rochesterians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, while others may find new opportunities because of it.
While New York State is viewed as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, Rochester is considered well suited to weathering the economic storms brought on by social distancing. Although small businesses have been hit hard, certain industries are looking for workers to meet current needs during this crisis. Officials stress that as in other areas of the country, staying home literally means saving lives. Of course, staying away from hospitals and other public areas if you are sick is vitally important. Although it may be tempting to bend the rules for selfish reasons, this scenario shows just how deadly one person’s decision could prove to be.