Q: What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19?)
A: COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: Symptoms range from mild to severe, and generally include fever, cough and shortness of breath. They usually appear around five days after exposure to someone infected with the virus.
Q: What are severe complications from this virus?
A: Some people infected with the virus will experience pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure and in some cases death.
Q: How is the virus transmitted?
A: The virus is mainly transmitted between people who are in close contact with each other (within six feet or less) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may also be possible to get the disease by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
Q: Who is most at risk from COVID-19?
A: Older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
Q: I have heard of coronavirus before. Why is this considered a new virus?
A: There are many strains of coronavirus. Most coronaviruses cause mild illnesses, like the common cold. If you test positive for a common coronavirus at your hospital or doctor’s office lab, that’s not the same thing as COVID-19. Your provider will be able to differentiate between the two if you have any questions.
Q: How can I reduce my chances of getting sick?
A: Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Avoid crowds as much as possible, keep space between yourself and others, and avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
Q: Should I wear a mask?
A: Unless you are sick or told by your medical provider to wear a mask, it’s not necessary to wear one to protect yourself. They are not useful in preventing the disease while you’re out in the community. In fact, when people who are not sick wear masks, it creates shortages for the health care providers and sick people who need them.
Q: Why do I see nurses and caregivers wearing masks?
A: Masks are only recommended for caregivers of patients with communicable illnesses and patients with a fever or cough. Caregivers have been trained how to correctly use facemasks and sometimes use a special type of respirator mask that is properly fitted. In some cases, a caregiver will wear a mask as a precautionary measure after returning from travel. It doesn’t mean they have symptoms or are sick. It’s an extra precaution we take for our patients’ safety.
Q: What is BJC’s process to keep their patients, staff and visitors safe?
A: Our hospitals follow an infection prevention plan that has been built upon years of experience treating infectious diseases.
- We have suspended all visitors, with some exceptions. We screen patients and visitor exceptions arriving at any BJC hospital for their travel history and symptoms.
- We provide a private exam room to patients who are exhibiting symptoms seen with COVID19 that isolates the patient from others.
- The patient wears a mask during transport and/or before being placed in a private room.
- Caregivers or individuals wear protective clothing—such as a mask or gown—before entering the room of a patient with potential or confirmed COVID-19 virus.
- All nurses and caregivers have been trained on the proper use of their protective clothing and steps around the isolation of the patient.
Q: How do you care for a patient who might have COVID-19?
A: If a patient meets exposure risk criteria, AND is experiencing symptoms, we follow up with an additional screening. If a patient’s symptoms are not severe and do not require hospital care, the recommendation from the health department for potential or confirmed coronavirus patients is to remain at home to reduce exposure in the community. Those with severe symptoms would be hospitalized in isolation.
Q: Are there COVID-19 patients here at the hospital and how are you protecting me from infection?
A: Any individuals suspected of the disease are isolated from other patients, visitors and staff. We are requiring any members of our clinical staff returning from travel to check with our Occupational Health department to be screened before they can return to work.
Q: Why can’t you test me for COVID-19?
A: In order not to overwhelm the care needed for critically ill patients, people who suspect they might have COVID-19 and are exhibiting symptoms should call the office of their health care provider. They will give you instructions on how to get care, if needed, without exposing other people to your illness. When sick, avoid contact with people, don’t go out, and delay any travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others.
Q: Is there a vaccine?
A: There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often.
Q: Is your emergency room limited to COVID-19 patients only?
A: Our emergency department is open to patients needing any kind of emergency care. Patients may be triaged to different waiting rooms based on their symptoms.
Q: I heard elective surgeries are canceled. How do I know if my procedure is elective and what do I do now?
A: BJC HealthCare stopped elective surgeries March 23. An “elective” surgery is care that can be delayed for eight weeks or more without appreciable risk to patients or families, and without compromising our standards of care.
Your physician will evaluate your planned procedure and make the decision of whether to cancel or go forward with it as scheduled. If you had a procedure scheduled, and are unsure of its status, please contact your physician or care provider.
Q: Am I allowed to visit my loved one in the hospital?
A: In recognition of the extraordinary steps required to combat the spread of COVID-19, BJC HealthCare has made the difficult decision to suspended visitation within our facilities. BJC will allow visitation to resume when the threat posed by COVID-19 lessens.
We recognize that in some circumstances, exceptions are needed.
- Obstetric patients may have one designated visitor (such as a partner or birth support person).
- Nursery and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients may have two designated visitors, who must remain in the patient room for the duration of the visit.
- Patients who are at end-of-life may have two designated visitors.
- Pediatric patients may have two designated visitors on the inpatient units and clinic visits.
- Patients with behavioral health, developmental delays or altered mental status for whom a family member or caregiver is integral to their care or safety may have one visitor.
- Patients with an appointment in a BJC or WUSM outpatient setting, procedural area or in the Emergency Department may have one designated visitor. Pediatric patients in the Emergency Department may have one designated visitor.
- For outpatient medical appointments, patients should come alone when possible.
Visitors who are experiencing signs of illness (fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches) cannot visit until they return to health. All visitors will be asked screening questions.
Children younger than age 16 will not be permitted except under extraordinary circumstances.
In addition, any one of the following criteria shall exclude a visitor from entry:
- Visitors displaying signs or symptoms of acute illness (fever, cough, difficulty breathing)
- Visitors who have had recent travel (<14 days) from affected geographic area
- Visitors who have had recent contact (<14 days) with someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19
Note: Exclusion criteria do not apply to the patient entering the facility for health care services
Q: Can family and friends wait in the waiting area, and rotate in and out to visit with the patient?
A: No, following recommendations for social distancing in order not to spread the virus, no additional family member or friends are allowed in the facility.
Q: Am I going to catch COVID-19 from somebody at the hospital?
A: The likelihood of that happening is very small, but we do expect visitors and patients to practice good hand hygiene and observe policies in place around social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, if we suspect a patient has COVID-19, but their symptoms are not severe and do not require hospitalization, they will be sent home to await test results and recover. Any individuals suspected of the disease are isolated from other patients, visitors and staff.
Q: Why is my nurse wearing a mask? Is he/she infected?
A: Your nurse may be wearing a mask after returning from travel or if they work in an area, such as the Emergency Department, where they are likely to encounter persons who are infected. BJC policy requires employees to wear a mask until cleared after travel to certain areas in order to be extremely cautious for the protection of patients and staff and allows certain employees working in areas where they are likely to encounter the disease to wear a mask for their protection.
Q: Are contractors or non-BJC employees that work at your facilities following the same health expectations as BJC employees?
A: Yes. BJC has the same expectations for non-employees as they do for their employees. For contractors or contingent workers embedded in our facilities, we are treating them the same as our employees regarding requirements after traveling, screening procedures, etc.
Q: Are kids immune to the virus that causes COVID-19?
A: There have been some cases of children developing COVID-19. However, children tend to experience milder symptoms, with a small number having severe complications. Children with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness.
Q: Will a pneumonia vaccine help protect me against coronavirus?
A: Vaccines against pneumonia do not protect against any coronavirus pneumonia, including pneumonia that may be part of COVID-19. However, they are still highly recommended to protect against other respiratory illnesses.
Q: Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?
A: At present, there is no evidence that pets can spread coronavirus (COVID-19) to humans.
Q: One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is shortness of breath. What does that mean?
A: Shortness of breath refers to unexpectedly feeling out of breath, or winded. You could feel a tightness in your chest, feel hungry for air and be unable to breathe deeply. If you are having trouble getting air, you should call your physician, as it could be a symptom of several things including COVID-19. If you are having a medical emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department..
Q: Should people avoid products shipped from China?
A: It is thought that the virus likely would not survive such a trip. Coronaviruses are most likely to be transmitted through respiratory droplets. There is no current evidence to support transmission of the virus associated with imported goods. People can protect themselves through proper handwashing.
Q: Can you have COVID-19 without symptoms?
A: Yes. Symptoms of COVID-19 usually show up from two to 14 days after exposure, but some people who are infected do not develop symptoms and do not feel ill.
Q: Could I get sick from COVID-19 more than once?
A: As patients recover from the disease, researchers are exploring this question, but it may be some time before we know the answer.