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Ask the WGH medical team

Dr. Keith Price

The Times Observer asked the Warren General Hospital medical team to help us get information out to our readers through the COVID-19 FAQ-3. Weekly, we will pose our questions, and your questions, to the experts.

If you would like the Times Observer to submit a question to the WGH medical team, email jsitler@timesobserver.com and we will forward those questions.

Three questions about the coronavirus outbreak

Answers provided by medical team at Warren General Hospital: Joe Akif, Chief Nursing Officer; Michele Welker, RN, Infection Control Nurse; Beth Anderson, RN, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator; Keith Price, MD,Medical Director.

1. With election primaries coming up on June 2nd, is it safe to go to the polling places? What measures should be taken?

Michele Welker

In polling places, all voters as well as workers should be masked and trying to keep their social distancing of six feet when possible. Hand hygiene should be paramount.

We spoke with Lisa Rivett, the department head of elections and voter registration for Warren County. Voting sites will have hand sanitizer available.

To sign in, voters are being encouraged to bring in their own pens. A special stylus will be used on voting machines with touch screens, with hand sanitizing immediately afterwards.

Workers there will be cleaning commonly-touched surfaces frequently.

All COVID precautions are being very adequately addressed at these sites. So, VOTE!

Bethany Anderson

2. Are face shields (clear plastic shields that cover from forehead to below chin) as effective as face masks for the public to use? Some people find them a lot more comfortable.

Great question! On looking into this, a number of experts feel that a face shield may be at least as protective, if not more so, than a cloth face covering. On past studies dealing with influenza (a droplet-type infection, as is the coronavirus), a face shield was 96% effective in reducing contamination in a test from a simulated cough 18 inches away. So, if the “cougher” had on a face shield as well, the chances of transmitting the infection might be lower yet.

Advantages to shields include less facial touching (with masks having to be frequently adjusted), ease of cleaning, ability for reuse, and comfort. And it’s easier to understand people when you can see their lips & facial expressions.

Stay tuned! This may turn out to be recommended in place of universal masking.

Of course, in a hospital setting with potential or confirmed COVID patients, both a medical-grade face mask and a face shield are recommended for health care workers.

Joe Akif

3. We have heard that hospitals are short on personal protective equipment (PPE) and, in some cases, have been rationing it and not giving it out when needed to those giving the care. Is this true at Warren General?

In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, most hospitals, including Warren General, scrambled to get adequate supplies of medical grade masks, gowns, face shields and gloves in preparation for a surge of cases. A number of hard-hit hospitals did experience shortages in their supplies, and recommendations were made by the Center for Disease Control on ways to reuse or prolong the life of equipment, to be done as safely as possible.

Thankfully, at WGH, given our low number of cases that had to be tested for COVID, we have not faced critical shortages in PPE, and equipment has been adequately supplied as indicated in the CDC guidelines. Over the weeks since this started, larger stores of PPE have gradually been obtained through our suppliers.

Through the incredible generosity of the Warren community and industry leaders, a large number of medical grade masks were donated to help alleviate any potential for shortage. Also, many individuals and church groups have donated cloth masks to provide for people coming to the hospital for testing, medical appointments or therapy who didn’t have them.

One lesson to be learned from this crisis will hopefully be how to nationally and regionally coordinate efforts to shunt supplies more efficiently and quickly in case of another pandemic.

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