By Debra Moore
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and need to be hospitalized, where will you receive care?
For now — Renown Medical Center and St. Mary’s in Reno, Enloe Medical Center in Chico, or UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, are all options.
“We are located in the center,” Dr. Ben Hunt told the Plumas Hospital District board of directors during its Nov. 12 meeting. Dr. Hunt is the hospital’s chief of staff. Thus far six Plumas County residents have been hospitalized, with one Indian Valley man being cared for at Renown for over three weeks thus far.
Cases are surging in Plumas County, but they are also on the rise across the state and nation, and what happens if those facilities don’t have beds available?
“It’s on our radar to treat patients here,” Hunt said, should the need arise.
Dr. Mark Satterfield, who serves on the hospital board and is the Plumas County health officer, said that the hospital is working on procuring the necessary medications to be able to administer them locally. “The art of caring for these folks has changed a lot,” he said during the meeting. “Sometimes they just need oxygen.”
While the hospital can provide oxygen and some level of care locally, thus far patients have been sent to larger hospitals that have garnered more experience since the pandemic began in March.
The morning after the meeting, Dr. Satterfield elaborated on hospital plans. “If Renown gets backed up or Enloe gets backed up, we have to be ready,” he said. While the preference would be to send patients out of the area, the hospital is equipped with ventilators and has trained staff that could handle the treatment.
As for some of the therapeutics, the hospital has most of them in stock and is expecting to receive a supply of Remdesivir soon. “That treatment is used for hospitalized patients and initially we thought we really didn’t need it, but it’s best to be prepared,” Dr. Satterfield said.
He said he worries less about the equipment and more about the personal protective gear that could be needed. Dr. Hunt said the supply currently is in good shape, but Dr. Satterfield is looking ahead and noted that “N95s are in short supply again.”
What can be done
This morning, Nov. 13, the state issued a 14-day quarantine period for those entering or returning to California following nonessential travel. Dr. Satterfield said that locally about 90 percent of the cases could be attributed to travel — either from visitors coming in or residents returning — with the infected individual passing the virus on to others locally.
To date there hasn’t been any documented community spread, but Dr. Satterfield fears that could change. He described community spread as the presence of cases when the source can’t be pinpointed. “We are teetering on the brink,” he said.
Thus far, due to the relatively small numbers compared to elsewhere, Public Health has been able to trace, identify and quarantine contacts.
Dr. Hunt said that the hospital has excelled at testing, which allows Public Health to begin contact tracing while it can still be valuable in preventing the virus’ spread. PDH has been able to provide same-day turnaround for those who are tested in the morning.
Dr. Satterfield encourages residents to follow the new state advisory and refrain from out-of-state travel for nonessential reasons. He also encourages the population to wear masks. The Centers for Disease Control this week announced that contrary to prior guidance, the mask is also effective in protecting a person from contracting the virus. Prior to this announcement, the mask was said to prevent an infected person from spreading the virus, but the mask actually has a two-fold benefit.
In addition to protecting individuals from falling ill, Dr. Satterfield said it benefits the economy. According to the CDC, if mask wearing increased by 15 percent in the United States, it’s estimated that it would save the economy $1 trillion.
“An economic analysis using U.S. data found that, given these effects, increasing universal masking by 15 percent could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $1 trillion or about 5 percent of gross domestic product,” according to the CDC.