Phila. brings hospital, health agency experts together for COVID-19 update

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Philadelphia's health department brought the heads of city hospitals, health agencies, and more together today.

The meeting was aimed at getting everyone on the same page in handling COVID-19, and to slow its spread.

Because we have seen outbreaks in the past,,such as H1N1, SARS, and Ebola, officials have been working on plans for years on how to control a pandemic.

Now they're starting to put those plans into action.

"We say it's low right now but we'll change that position if in fact we do have more cases," says Doctor Steven Alles of the Philadelphia Health department.

Dr. Alles says there's no indication of community spread for the new coronavirus in Philadelphia now.

So the risk is low, but that will change with new cases expected.

The goal of today's meeting was to discuss plans with other providers to identify patients quickly, isolate and contain the virus.

Many noted the lessons from South Korea, where enhanced, and even drive-through testing, for COVID-19 have identified cases faster and led to fewer new infections.

With commercial labs like Quest and LabCorp now doing COVID-19 tests, the search for new cases is boosted.

"(It' is) Really important for case identification so we can do all the things we can for containment," says Dr. Kristen Feemster, of the Phila. Health Dept.

"Stay home, stay away from other people," was the advice heard again and again at the meeting.

Providers such as Nurse Practitioner Abby Schultz of Rittenhouse Women's Wellness Center says they're already using a lot of telemedicine, talking to patients via phone or video to determine if they should self-isolate...

"The biggest thing is going to be keeping it from getting widespread and keeping our ERs from getting overrun, our healthcare system from getting overrun," says Schultz.

Top administrators from several city hospitals also met, coordinating with the health department about things like supplies, protective gear for workers, and how to handle a potential surge of patients.

That may include setting up an over-flow tent like ones used several times during the past decade during bad flu seasons.

They are also asking the public to do their part.

Wash your hands, disinfect common surfaces, and stay home if you are sick.

In fact, Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said he woke up with a cold, so he called into the meeting, instead of being there in person.
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