SAYRE BOROUGH — Bradford County residents were assured Thursday that while there are currently no positive cases of COVID-19 confirmed locally, Guthrie is properly equipped to handle the pandemic should it enter the region, during a press briefing.
Guthrie President and CEO Dr. Joseph Scopelliti, as well as other internal experts from Guthrie, urged locals to be cautious and take precautionary measures set forth by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but to not panic as the country continues to attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“These are really unprecedented times. In my career in medicine I’ve never encountered or heard of anything like this or of this magnitude and in particular the rapidity of change, what’s going on around our country and the world is really the unprecedented part,” Scopelliti stated.
He added that while the rules, guidelines, and plans on how to best deal with the coronavirus outbreak change almost every day, Guthrie has singled out three key areas of focus that remain the same: containing the spread of the virus, ensuring the safety of their patients and staff, and preparing for a possible surge in the number of people affected by coronavirus.
Guthrie Executive Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Dr. Michael Scalzone said that currently there have been 2,372 positive cases of COVID-19 in New York state and 133 in Pennsylvania. Guthrie has completed 134 coronavirus tests but has had no confirmed cases.
Scalzone stated that while it is “relatively inevitable” that Bradford County will have positive cases found and that there is no “one size fits all” approach for “something as complex and rapidly changing” as COVID-19, the organization is familiar with emergency operations and has set up an Emergency Operations Center. This center will collect and distribute information, and ensures that Guthrie is ready to handle positive cases if they are diagnosed locally.
In order to limit the spread of coronavirus, Guthrie has taken measures including eliminating almost all visitation, moving most employees to remote workforce, increasing capacity for remote patient visits through their telemedicine program and postponing routine office visits and non-emergent surgery to keep as many individuals as possible off the hospital’s campuses and maintain supplies, according to Scalzone.
“We know that we can’t predict the scope of what’s going to happen but we feel very prepared for an influx of patients and we will continue to monitor the situation and prepare as necessary,” Scalzone stated.
While there has been “national disruptions of supplies for medical use,” Scalzone assured locals that Guthrie monitors inventory every day and has adequate supplies to care for patients.
Scalzone added that Guthrie is equipped with “adequate supplies to test for a significant period of time” including “well over 1,000” COVID-19 test kits.
Results from tests are taking longer than the previously expected two- to four-day period to receive, however, as medical laboratories have been inundated with these tests, Scalzone added.
Scalzone stated that there has been talk of a federal release of emergency supply stocks and Guthrie has requested to receive its “fair share” if this should occur.
Dr. Lawrence Sampson, chief of Vascular/Endovascular Surgery, regional associate dean and interim chairman of Guthrie’s Department of Surgery, stated that Guthrie’s decision to postpone all non-emergent and non-urgent surgery is in alignment with the recommendation of both the Surgeon General and the American College of Surgeons, and is being implemented in all hospitals nationwide.
“Our decision to postpone all non-emergent, non-urgent surgery was based upon the safety of our patients, our communities and our staff in light of an ever changing pandemic,” he said. “Guthrie is dedicated to the health and safety of our patients, our communities and our staff. We will get through this.”
Sampson said that surgery cases are carried out or postponed after they are reviewed by a process that includes individual surgeons and a panel of medical professionals on a case-by-case basis.
“This is the time for everybody to be cautious and not complacent, very, very careful, and not be in complete panic,” stated Dr. Sheela Prabhu, section chief of Guthrie’s General Internal Medicine.
Prabhu, who has specialized in caring for the region’s senior citizen population for more than 15 years, urged locals, especially those over 65 years old, to stay home and away from social gatherings; to have good hand and respiratory hygiene through measures like handwashing, coughing into one’s elbow, and throwing away tissues immediately after use; to ensure they have an adequate stock of any prescribed medications; and to call their doctor if they feel sick, especially if they have a cough, fever or shortness of breath.
“This is the time to be careful, stay at home and when in doubt please call your doctor or your nurse,” she said.
The Guthrie professionals explained that once someone calls to report symptoms, the organization consults with the Department of Health to determine whether or not the patient should be tested, and then will give instructions to the patient based on their decision.
Guthrie officials did ask those without symptoms to not attempt to be tested, however, as “at this time in our communities the risk is relatively low,” and supplies can best be utilized by only testing those most likely to have contracted coronavirus.
When asked about the potential economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Guthrie, Scopelliti stated that “the organization is in good standing.”
“We have managed this organization for 30 years a pretty conservative model and so it will be a big economic impact but we have resources to withstand this even if it goes on for a long period of time,” he said, adding that the outbreak, however, “will be a big economic impact to our communities.”
When asked if pets could contract the coronavirus, Prabhu stated that the World Health Organization has not talked about potential human to animal transmission. She recommended that if individuals are sick, even with the flu or another respiratory illness, they should be sure to wash their hands well and have someone else take care of their pets.
Scopelliti encouraged community members to use reliable resources to stay informed about the coronavirus update, especially the Department of Health and CDC websites, the latter of which he stated is written specifically for the public, so it is easy to follow and organized by topic.
“This is rapidly changing. It’s going to continue to be rapidly changing. What is truth today is going to probably be different by Monday, and so we really think that communication in this era is going to be pretty critical,” he said.
Due to an incline in information requests, Guthrie has established two COVID-19 information hotlines. Individuals with questions related to coronavirus are asked to call the hotlines at (844) 357-2840 or (800) 836-1925.
Guthrie team members staffing the hotlines are prepared to answer questions related to COVID-19 including its symptoms, transmission, prevention and testing but are not intended for emergency calls which should be directed to 911.