AdventHealth is launching a free phone service for Floridians who have questions about coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, including the opportunity to speak with a nurse as appropriate. The 24-hour line is in addition to a similar line operated by the Florida Department of Health.
And in a continuously and fast-changing landscape as a result of the unpredictable virus, Palm Coast Fire Chief is recommending that in order not to overload the hospital and local health care workers, and unnecessarily mingle with more people, residents who feel they have coronavirus- or flu-like symptoms should first call their physician and do what they can by phone.
But “if someone feels like they need to be tested, they need to call the Department of Health, that is the recommendation we would make at this point in time,” Flagler County Department of Health chief Bob Snyder said this morning. That 24-hour Health Department number is 866-779-6121.
The AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line, 877-VIRUSHQ, (or 877-847-8747) serves as a one-stop-shop to connect Floridians with resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health. While the phone line is not intended to replace a physician-patient relationship, nurses can answer general medical questions and will refer the caller to the appropriate next steps, such as connecting them to AdventHealth Centra Care, AdventHealth eCare or other health care providers.
“We have that 24 hotline too, this is like an advanced communication element that’s very important now and very welcomed,” Snyder said. “So now we’ve got the call center from the hospital, we have the call center from the state Department of Health, and what a wonderful way to make sure folks are up to date with information and guidance.”
On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health revealed that a 69-year old woman in Broward County has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is isolated and will remain isolated until cleared by public health officials. It is the third positive case of COVID-19 associated with Port Everglades in Broward, and connected to or employed by Metro Cruise Services, which operates at Port Everglades. The Florida Department of Health recommends all individuals experiencing symptoms who have recently traveled through Port Everglades to immediately contact their County Health Department or health care provider and self-isolate for 14 Days.
On Monday, A 60-year old Volusia County woman tested positive for the virus. She has a history of recent travel outside of the United States. A 66-year-old woman has also tested positive in Volusia.
As of 8 this morning, 14 cases have been confirmed in Florida, including in a 29-year-old woman in Hillsborough County. The average age of those testing positive is 65.8. Two Florida residents have died from the virus. Aside from Volusia, Borward and Hillsborough, Other counties with cases include Manatee, Santa Rosa, Lee, Charlotte, Okaloosa and Manatee. Two hundred and twenty-two people have tested negative, with 155 tests pending.
In the nation, 35 states and the District of Columbia have reported a combined 423 cases and 19 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control as of March 9.
“AdventHealth recognizes there are a lot of misunderstandings in our communities when it comes to COVID-19 and we want to provide our neighbors with a simple, trusted resource to help alleviate fears and answer common questions,” said Dr. Peter Schoch, chief medical officer of Integrated Health Services for AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division. “We are hopeful this service will also offload non-clinical call volumes from health care offices, helping providers across the state by freeing up their staff to focus on those who need the most immediate, critical care.”
The initial launch of the AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line will be limited to Florida. However, the organization plans to expand the service in upcoming weeks to all communities where AdventHealth provides services.
The phone line debuts at the same time AdventHealth launches www.CoronavirusSignsAndSymptoms.com, where consumers can get answers on top COVID-19 questions, such as:
Am I at risk?
What should I know if I am pregnant?
How can I protect myself from this and other viruses, like the flu?
“While the risk for coronavirus infection in Florida remains low, it’s vital that the public be equipped with the facts to help prevent the potential spread of the virus,” said Dr. Vincent Hsu, Infection Control Officer at AdventHealth. “We hope the community will use these resources, remain vigilant and help keep Florida healthy by taking simple steps such as staying home if you’re sick and routine hand washing.”
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Florida, as a result of the coronavirus.
The pandemic was a matter of discussion at this morning’s Palm Coast City Council workshop.
“I spent some time in the ER yesterday and last night, and the emergency room was–it was standing room only, frankly, hour after hour after hour, a lot of ambulances were coming in and out,” Mayor Milissa Holland said. She asked Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte how the emergency would be managed from a resource and first-responder perspective.
“You can never fully expect to pay for the cost of something like this,” Forte said. “What we are doing is working with our partners in the county to limit our exposure. So instead of having five people show to go to a person that’s got the flu, we’re going to go in there to assist if they need it, and stay outside, and limit the amount of people that go into a location. We are encouraging people that if they feel sick, they feel like they’ve got the flu, call your doctor. They can call stuff in. Call to the hospital, call to the pharmacy, get whatever it is to the house. If you feel that you’re showing the signs and symptoms of a coronavirus type of a thing, which is very upper respiratory, they need to make contact with the doctor and deal with them directly as opposed to taking what they might feel is a virus and taking it to a doctor’s office where there’s a whole lot more people. So people have to limit their exposure out.”
Coronavirus can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
“The reality is, there’s a lot of people that may have this virus that are walking around unaffected, that are asymptomatic,” Forte said. “They might have it, and their body is dealing with it. It’s the seniors that are having the most challenge with this, so we’re encouraging people–just don’t go to the hospital because you think you’ve got the flu. Call your doctor. Call them on the phone, stay home, stay in your one location, and it’s more manageable that way.”
“That’s a smart strategy,” the mayor said.
“They’re doing it in Portugal–don’t come to the office,” Council member Eddie Branquinho, who is of Portuguese extraction, said.
But Snyder cautioned that there may be different guidance for different people, depending on what symptoms they are presenting with. (Keep in mind: the Department of Health is not making house calls for now, which means certain people will have to go to the department or to a health care provider.)
The CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider and local county health department and mention their recent travel or close contact.
If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, they should call ahead to a health care professional and the county health department. The health care professional will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.
Those 24-hour phone lines again:
AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line, 877-VIRUSHQ, (or 877-847-8747).
Florida Department of Health: 866-779-6121.