Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update
Updated August 6, 2020 at 1 p.m. PST.

**Palomar Health is not a free COVID-19 testing site. Testing restrictions apply.**

To check your symptoms and decide if you and when you should see a doctor, please visit this interactive symptom checker. There may be a delay when updating to match new CDC guidelines. Use of the symptom checker is at your sole risk and does not replace the advice of a doctor.


HOT TOPICS
What spiritual care services are offered during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Palomar Health Chaplains provide spiritual and emotional support to patients and visitors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ministers of all faiths and Catholic priests may go on-site for end-of-life situations only. They may also call in to a patient’s room to meet spiritual needs. Please talk to your loved one’s nurse to discuss the need for spiritual support.

Do Palomar Health hospitals provide masks to patients? 
To further reduce the exposure risk to our staff and physicians, we will be providing all patients with a mask to be worn while hospitalized. Patients will be given a surgical mask by the nurse or CNA upon being admitted into a patient room (unless coming from the ED and one has already been provided) along with education on how and when to use the mask. The patient will keep the same mask until discharged unless it appears soiled or degraded in any way and then a new mask must be provided. The patient should wear the mask each time a member of the healthcare team enters the room unless the patient condition inhibits this. Employees may remind patients to wear the mask when they enter a room, but a patient has the right to refuse at any time.

Is Palomar Health allowing volunteers?
In the next few weeks, we will start to slowly bring our volunteers back. This will start with a small group that does not have patient care contact and slowly progress to some patient care areas (excluding COVID-19 units) over the next few months. We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the county and follow all guidelines as we bring our volunteers back into the buildings.

What are the visitor restrictions and how can I visit virtually?
To protect the health of our patients and visitors, Palomar Health is enforcing a NO VISITORS restriction until further notice. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as child patients can be accompanied by one adult, one support person will be allowed during child birth, end-of-life patients can receive visitors on a case-by-case basis and patients with mental disabilities (meeting criteria) can have a support person under certain circumstances. Please call and speak with the patient’s care team before coming to the hospital. You must receive prior permission to enter the hospital. Please do not show up unannounced.

VIRTUAL VISITS
To increase access to patients during this difficult time, Palomar Health encourages patients to visit with their loved ones virtually through their smartphone or tablet. If the patient does not have access to a device, they will be able to use a loaner iPad provided by Palomar Health. To initiate a virtual visit, the patient (or loved one by calling the patient’s room) must ask their bedside nurse to set up the virtual visit. There may be a delay as there are a limited number of iPads available.

The iPads are Wi-Fi enabled and equipped with Apple FaceTime and Google Duo. The call must be initiated from the patient’s room on the iPad as an outgoing call; the loved one can only receive the call. Loved ones must have an internet-connected device with either FaceTime or Google Duo installed to accept the call. This can be a phone, tablet or computer. If the patient and loved one both have access to their own personal internet-connected device, they are welcome to initiate a virtual visit at any time.

If you have any questions, please ask to speak with the charge nurse in the unit where the patient is staying.
 
Is Palomar Health providing free COVID-19 tests?
No. None of the Palomar Health facilities offer free COVID-19 tests. At this time, Palomar Health is only testing patients with symptoms and others who meet certain criteria. To find a COVID-19 testing center near you, visit https://testing.covid19.ca.gov/

Is it safe to come to the hospital?
Yes. Palomar Medical Centers in Escondido and Poway are taking extraordinary measures to ensure your safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Please don’t hesitate to access emergency services if you have cardiac issues, abdominal pain, chest pain, orthopedic injuries or psychiatric emergencies. Early treatment can result in drastically improved outcomes.
Here are some of the ways we are ensuring your safety:

  • Screening all patients at the door
  • Isolating potential COVID-19 patients from all other patients
  • Masking all patients and personnel throughout the hospital
  • Restricting visitors
  • Unprecedented cleaning and sterilization of all surfaces

 
VISITOR RESTRICTIONS
Are visitors allowed at the hospital? 
To protect the health and safety of our patients and visitors, no visitors are allowed inside Palomar Medical Center Escondido, Palomar Medical Center Poway and The Villas at Poway (Villa Pomerado), per the public health order, until further notice. There are some exceptions to this rule such as: child patients may be accompanied by one adult, one support person will be allowed during child birth, end of life patients may receive visitors on a case by case basis and patients with mental disabilities (meeting criteria) may have a support person under certain circumstances. Please call and speak with the patient’s care team before coming to the hospital. You must receive prior permission to enter the hospital. Please do not show up unannounced.

Anyone entering the hospital will have their temperatures taken (nobody with a temperature above 100 degrees will be allowed to enter) and screened for potential coronavirus exposure.
 
Are birthing partners allowed in the birth center?
One support person is allowed in the room with the patient. Everyone entering the hospital has a temperature check and is given a mask to wear while in the hospital. Currently it is up to the doctor to determine if the patient needs to be tested. For the support person, once the patient is admitted the support person will need to stay in the hospital, no in and out privileges. We recommend that they bring food and snacks, etc. The cafeteria is open, but we recommend that they stay in the room with the patient. We are constantly watching CDC recommendations and changing practice as needed, so keep in mind that things may change. 

What are the vendor and contractor visitor restrictions?
In accordance with CDC guidelines, all non-essential vendors and contractors are barred from entering all Palomar Health facilities. The exceptions to this policy (essential care vendors and contractors) are those who provide services directly to medically necessary patient care and essential equipment or facility processes. This policy is effective immediately and until further notice. All vendors and contractors must check in at the front desk upon arrival and those meeting the criteria will be given a badge for that day only. Please see the attached letter on our vendor restrictions at this time. 

INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS
How can I protect myself?
Here are the best ways you can protect yourself and others:
- Wear a mask while in public
- Sanitize and/or wash your hands often
- Keep six feet of distance from anyone not in your immediate household
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Do not touch your face
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Properly cover your cough/sneeze
- Disinfect highly touched areas
 
What should I do if I believe I am infected with COVID-19?
Call your primary care physician. If you do not have a healthcare provider, please call 2-1-1 or visit 211sandiego and they will connect you with a provider. Stay home until instructed to leave by your healthcare provider. Do not visit the Emergency Department unless you are having an emergency situation. Read our steps to follow for more information and watch this video on why you should call first to avoid exposing others. 

 
What should I do if I am told to isolate at home?
The County of San Diego has issued a specific set of directions for anyone who is being evaluated or has confirmed positive for the coronavirus. These instructions also cover anyone who has contact with the coronavirus carrier. You can also learn how to take care of yourself in this video and seven ways to stay safe if you're high risk in this video
 

TESTING PROCEDURES
Should I get an antibody coronavirus test? 
Palomar Health’s Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Director of Infectious Diseases are suggesting you wait until a more valid antibody test is developed. The vast majority of antibody tests are not FDA approved and in the opinion of many medical experts are not yet accurate. Scientists are currently working to create a reliable test and are hopeful they will get FDA approval in the future. The most accurate current tests being conducted by hospitals nationwide, including Palomar Health, is called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which examines a sample of mucus taken from the nose or mouth.

Is Palomar Health testing all patients for COVID-19?
At this time, only patients with symptoms and others who meet certain criteria will be tested.

Are we testing people without symptoms for COVID-19?
Following CDC guidelines, and due to the low number of test kits available, we are only testing people who show symptoms. Since incubation periods after exposure differ for each person, testing someone without symptoms could produce a negative result and a false sense of security for the individual and those around them. Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to the virus, but isn’t showing symptoms, should wear a mask and remain in quarantine.

What are the odds I am COVID-19 positive, but I received a negative test result? 
The sensitivity and specificity of the COVID-19 test is greater than 98%, which means the rate of false negative test results is very low.

How much is a COVID-19 test?
We treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay. As is the case with any treatment, we collect insurance information. Your insurance company is best to answer any payment related question.

How is Palomar Health screening patients for the virus?
All patients are screened at the entrance to the Emergency Department and their temperature is taken. Those who meet the criteria for possible coronavirus testing are immediately masked and sent to a designated area to isolate them from other patients. Patients are evaluated and those suspected of carrying the virus are tested and sent home with medical instructions or tested and admitted to the hospital for treatment, depending on patient condition.  

What is the process for testing?
First you are screened to meet CDC testing requirements. Then a practitioner swabs your nose and/or mouth to collect a specimen. If you need hospital care you will be checked in and treated as necessary, otherwise you will be sent home and asked to self-quarantine. 

What should I do once I have been swabbed for the coronavirus?
If you have been tested for COVID-19 at a Palomar Health hospital and sent home you will be contacted as soon as your results are availabe. If you are home waiting for results, stay home and away from other people as much as possible.

How many days does it take to get coronavirus results back?
If you are admitted to the hospital (become an inpatient) your results will usually be returned in less than 24 hours. If you are tested (swabbed) and sent home to self-quarantine, your results may take up to 7 days or longer. You will be contacted immediately when your results are available.
 
Is Palomar Health operating drive through coronavirus testing?
Drive-through testing is only being done with appointments for those who have a scheduled surgery at one of our hospitals. Our emergency departments do not offer drive-through testing and is only testing people with symptoms. Unless you have an emergency situation, please contact your doctor first before coming to the Emergency Department.
 
PALOMAR HEALTH ACTIONS
Is Palomar Health resuming outpatient services?
In accordance with County guidelines, we have started to slowly resume outpatient services. As of June 1, Cardiac Rehab has resumed Phase 2 services and outpatient diagnostic imaging has resumed for critical cases. All patients will be screened and all required precautions will be observed including masks, social distancing and frequent hand hygiene.

Are gift shops and Starbucks open at Palomar Medical Centers?
The gift shop at PMC Escondido opened on June 1 with limited hours and the gift shop at PMC Poway will reopen once volunteers are able to return to the hospital. Starbucks will be reopening at PMC Escondido on Monday, June 8. All County guidelines for retail businesses will be followed at these locations.

When will elective surgeries resume?
Government agencies loosened surgery restrictions to allow those that are “time-sensitive” and essential to the health of the patient. Although surgery volume is vital to our business, it’s important that we resume surgeries in the safest way possible to protect our patients and staff. We are resuming time-sensitive surgeries while monitoring safety and PPE use closely. All other elective surgeries will continue to be suspended at this time.

What types of treatment and testing is Palomar Health doing? 
We are continuing to review advanced treatment options for COVID-19 which include: Dexamethasone, Convalescent Plasma and Remdesivir. We are not currently doing any anti-body testing as the only FDA approved test is not reliable and does not specifically test for COVID-19.

What is Palomar Health doing to prevent the spread? 
Palomar Health continues to maintain and provide all proper PPE to staff. All employees are required to pass a temperature check when entering all buildings and must wear a mask at all times while at work. Employees much practice social distancing at all times, including in the café and breakrooms while eating. All meetings are being done virtually and employees who are not required to be in the hospital are telecommuting until further notice. Volunteers have also been suspended for the time being.

How are we celebrating COVID-19 patients who leave our facilities? 
Every patient who recovers from COVID-19 is a true testament to the determination of the patient, but most importantly to the dedication and exceptional patient care provided by our employees and physicians. When a COVID-19 patient leaves our hospitals, it is something to celebrate. Each time a patient is discharged, a “Code Rocky” is called overhead and all available staff are asked to meet in the lobby to send them home with smiling faces and cheers. View the PMC Poway Code Rocky here, and the Escondido video here. (Code Rocky is named after the theme song from Rocky.)
 
What is the status of the Field Medical Station?
The Federal Medical Station (FMS) is setup on the shelled 10th and 11th floors of Palomar Medical Center Escondido with 202 beds. It’s important to remember this is not a Palomar Health project and will be fully funded by the County. It is still undetermined when/if the FMS will open and what patients (COVID, non-COVID, both) will be cared for at this location. These decisions will be made by the County based on community health needs, and we will remain prepared to work with the County on staffing and other needs as directed.

Why did we lay off 317 workers?
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected our business practices causing us to reduce our patient population by up to 70% in some areas with an overall drop of 45-50%. The drop in patients has led to a corresponding drop in revenues. We are forecasting a slow increase in the number of patients over time but don’t see a full return of patients in the foreseeable future. Therefore we were left with staff without patients to care for. In the best interest of all Palomar Health stakeholders we had to take the painful step of a workforce reduction. For more information, please read the CEO’s press conference remarks.

How has this healthcare crisis affected hospitals?
The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has caused unforeseen challenges and extreme difficulties to healthcare systems across the county. The process of balancing expectations and the realities we are currently facing have caused hardships on many companies, Palomar Health included. Unfortunately, hospitals and healthcare systems, like many other businesses, are faced with tough decisions to ensure we are able to balance our finances and ensure we can continue serving the community during and after this crisis. As usual, we will continue to adjust staffing levels to patient volume.

Does Palomar Health have enough hospital-grade PPE? 
Yes. Palomar Health has been able to maintain use of all proper hospital-grade PPE. We always have and always will provide the necessary PPE required by the CDC for patient care. In many cases we have exceeded the requirements.

What is happening with the downtown hospital?
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is coordinated on a regional level by the County of San Diego Health Department under the direction of the State of California following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control. The response team also includes local hospital systems, including Palomar Health. The response team has determined the best location for the Federal Medical Station (FMS) is the top two floors of Palomar Medical Center Escondido for various reasons. Palomar Health has been working diligently to prepare the downtown Escondido facility in the event the response team determines additional bed spaces are necessary beyond the FMS.

Does Palomar Health have enough ventilators?
We are continuing to increase our supply and have a proof of concept that will allow multiple patients to share one ventilator, further increasing our capacity.
 
Is Palomar Health cancelling events?
Yes, per the CDC recommendation to limit gatherings, all Palomar Health-sponsored community activities and events have been cancelled until further notice. This includes education classes, tours, symposiums, awareness events, ALL support groups (including breastfeeding support groups), etc.
 
DONATIONS
How has the community helped Palomar Health through giving?
One of the most inspiring parts of this pandemic has been the tremendous outpouring of support we have seen from our community. Since March, we have received 7,860 meals and food items, 18,083 supply donations, 20,000 homemade masks and more than $1 million in donations.

Why did Palomar Health ask for mask donations? 
Palomar Health asked for mask donations, and we are happy to announce we reached our need for cloth masks. 

What should we do with donations other than masks?
We are receiving many donation offers from generous local companies and residents. We are grateful for their generosity and ask all hospital supply donations be sent to Heather.Woodling@PalomarHealth.org in Supply Chain. Donation offers for anything other than supplies should be directed to Alex.Arana@PalomarHealth.org at the Foundation.

Note: Due to the outpouring of support we are no longer accepting mask or food donations. Thank you for your support.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES
Where can I get the latest data on the spread of the coronavirus?
The County of San Diego Public Health Department updates coronavirus statistics every day around 4 p.m. 

Where can I get good information about community resources such as child care, etc.?
The County of San Diego operates a website and information line that contains local resources, sorted by zip code that has been vetted by professionals. You can call 2-1-1 or visit their website to learn more about these resources.

Do you sell N95 masks? If not where can I purchase them?
No hospital sells N95 masks, but they are available from third party vendors. Please be careful of scams and price gouging as some are taking advantage of the pandemic. Your best defense against contracting the coronavirus is to stay at least six feet away from other people and wash your hands regularly.
 
COVID-19 FACTS
What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) is a respiratory disease first identified in Wuhan, China causing an illness not previously seen in humans. The fact that it’s a new virus with little information is why it’s getting so much attention.

How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus mainly spreads between people in close contact with each other and/or from a cough or sneeze. People are most contagious when they are feeling sick. However, it might be possible for the virus to spread before symptoms occur. Although unlikely, the virus could spread by touching an infected surface and then touching your face.

What are COVID-19 symptoms?
The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
- fever
- cough
- shortness of breath

Flu Vaccinations
Each year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (www.cdc.gov) recommends a new flu vaccine to protect against the upcoming strains of influenza. The 2019 - 2020 flu vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. It will not prevent illness caused by other viruses. It takes up to two weeks for protection to develop after the shot, and protection lasts six-months to one year. Palomar Health, working under national guidelines provided by the CDC, is prepared to vaccinate as many individuals as possible, age 9 and older, through its community flu shot clinics. Palomar Health nurses will provide the influenza vaccine by injection to persons 9 years of age and older.

 

 
There are no more community flu shots this season.