Sentara Norfolk General Hospital prepares for coronavirus to hit Hampton Roads

Posted at 5:38 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 22:26:29-05

NORFOLK, Va. — Two potential cases of novel coronavirus are being closely monitored in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Health reports one case in Northern Virginia and another in the southwestern part of the state.

Meanwhile, 60 cases have been reported in the U.S. so far.

Health officials are putting plans in place to screen and treat any new cases that could potentially make their way to Hampton Roads. Officials from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital said their staff are preparing for the worst of what the coronavirus could bring to our area.

“The CDC has indicated that there are likely going to be more infections in the U.S. and we may not know all of the potential exposures,” said Dr. Barry Knapp.

The most common signs are similar to the cold, which makes it tough to pinpoint.

“For most people, it’s a cold-like illness with fever, cough and maybe some shortness of breath,” Knapp said.

Sentara staff are screening for patients with symptoms and for people who have traveled internationally.

A patient suspected of having coronavirus would be quarantined in a “negative pressure room” where the inside would not circulate or escape into the hospital and infect others.

Before interacting with the patient, staff members put on a gown that keeps their skin and clothing from being contaminated by droplets. Then, they cover their face with a mask specially fitted for them so they don’t inhale any droplets in the air. They also wear protective eyewear and gloves that will keep their hands clean while interacting with the patient.

Right now, any locally performed tests need to be sent to the Virginia Department of Health and then on to the CDC in Atlanta to get the results.

“The mortality rate, at least right now, for the coronavirus is around two percent. Most people are going to have a very mild infection or may not have symptoms at all, so that’s good."

More deadly than coronavirus is the flu— killing around 800 people in the state this season alone.

Experts say a key step in protecting yourself from either virus is as simple as washing your hands and doing it often.