COVID-19 case confirmed in Washington County; Ballad Health expands safety measures

Published 8:38 am Monday, March 23, 2020

A case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Washington County — the second positive diagnosis in the Appalachian Highlands — has been confirmed, prompting Ballad Health to take additional steps to protect its patients, team members and communities.

The new COVID-19 case was confirmed on Friday, March 20, through one of Ballad Health’s drive-thru screening sites. The person who tested positive called the Ballad Health Nurse Connect hotline after feeling symptomatic and underwent the pre-screening process. The person, who recently traveled internationally, has been at home in self-isolation since taking the test.

Visitation restriction

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Effective Saturday, March 21, Ballad Health will restrict all visitation to its inpatient hospital units, long-term care facilities or behavioral health centers. In accordance with recommendations from federal and state authorities, the  health system will also postpone certain non-emergent surgeries and procedures. Patients should consult with their physicians to determine if their surgery or procedure will be impacted.

Exceptions to the visitation restriction include Ballad Health’s labor and delivery units, which will allow one visitor per room. The neonatal intensive care unit at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, as well as rooms with pediatric patients, will allow two visitors, but they must be parents or guardians.

Affected long-term care facilities include:

Francis Marion Manor Health & Rehabilitation, Marion, Va.

Laughlin Healthcare Center, Greeneville, Tenn.

Madison House, Kingsport, Tenn.

Mountain View Regional Hospital, Norton, Va.

Wexford House, Kingsport, Tenn.

The behavioral health centers with these restrictions are:

5-East at Bristol Regional Medical Center, Bristol, Tenn.

Clearview Behavioral Health, Lebanon, Va.

Dickenson Community Hospital’s Green Oak Behavioral Health Unit, Clintwood, Va.

Greeneville Community Hospital West’s senior care unit, Greeneville, Tenn.

Ridgeview Pavilion, Bristol, Tenn.

Sycamore Shoals Hospital’s New Leaf Senior Care, Elizabethton, Tenn.

Woodridge Hospital, Johnson City, Tenn.

Non-emergent procedural cases

Upon consultation with the local medical community, Ballad Health is implementing the guidance from federal and state authorities, which recommend hospitals postpone certain non-emergent procedural cases.

Based on the recommendations, Ballad Health will follow the COVID-19: Guidance for Triage of Non-Emergent Surgical Procedures published by the American College of Surgeons on March 17.

“We understand this might be disruptive, but we concur with the reasoning behind the recommendation and believe it is appropriate at this time,” said Clay Runnels, MD, executive vice president and chief physician executive for Ballad Health. “Our decision to postpone non-emergent cases will free up healthcare workers, medical supplies and ventilators, so we are fully prepared to care for any high-risk COVID-19 patients.”

Public precautions for COVID-19

Ballad Health leaders continue to urge the public to practice social distancing to impede the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing involves limiting contact with other individuals as much as possible by avoiding groups of 10 or more people and deliberately increasing the physical space between people by at least three to six feet.

“Social distancing is the single best weapon we have to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep local health care resources from becoming overwhelmed,” said Ballad Health Chief Executive Officer and President Alan Levine.

“This is serious. You can’t overreact to a virus nobody has immunity to — we have to take steps to prevent it. If we want to protect the people we love, we all must be serious about social distancing, hand washing and other preventive actions.”

Jamie Swift, infection prevention director at Ballad Health, said younger people need to especially follow the social distancing recommendations.

“This is not a virus that is just impacting the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions,” Swift said.

“As of Friday, more than half of the confirmed COVID-19 cases, around 55% of the 154 cases, were in people younger than 40 years old.”

If anyone experiences COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, please call Ballad Health’s Nurse Connect hotline at 833-8-5523 to be screened by a healthcare professional. The hotline is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As always, anyone in an emergency situation should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

To learn more about COVID-19 and read updated information, please visit our COVID-19 page.