CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa has treated 12 coronavirus inpatients

It has screened thousands for the coronavirus via telehealth tools

University of Iowa Health Care complex, which houses University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is seen in this photo tak
University of Iowa Health Care complex, which houses University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, is seen in this photo taken on Friday, April 18, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Gazette) ¬

IOWA CITY — A University of Iowa Health Care clinic created specifically for influenza-like symptoms — in hopes of keeping coronavirus patients away from its general population — has had 1,134 visits to date, according to new numbers the hospital released Tuesday morning.

UI Hospitals and Clinics has treated as inpatients a total of 12 positive COVID-19 cases to date, six of whom still were in the hospital as of Monday. It has screened 4,690 patients for influenza-like symptoms via video visits or over the phone.

Just Monday, UIHC — Iowa’s largest hospital system and only academic medical enterprise — saw 87 people in its flu-like-symptom clinic and screened 231 people through its telehealth tools.

In a message to his UIHC community this week, UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran stressed, “The response will be a marathon.”

Iowa’s total positive COVID-19 tally on Tuesday reached 497, including 90 in Linn County, which now has the most in the state; 76 in Polk County; and 73 in Johnson County.

Of those positive cases, most have never been hospitalized and 61 currently are in the hospital, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health — meaning only a fraction are at UIHC.

“It is now becoming clear that our COVID-19 response will last months, not just days and weeks,” Gunasekaran said in his message. “The good news is that survival rates are high, Johnson County spread has been manageable, and we continue to get great community support.

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“However, we must start adjusting to the new normal which will require new ways of managing our operations.”

New screening

In that vein, UIHC on Wednesday is rolling out a new screening process for faculty and staff entering its buildings that will involve taking of each employees’ temperature — either with an automatic thermal scanner or a screener.

Thermal scanners — which are walk-through scanners — will be stationed at the main UIHC entrance and Pomerantz Family Pavilion Level 2 skyway. Other entrances will have hand-held devices and could be slower and involve lines.

If lines develop, those waiting will be required to maintain six feet of distance. Screeners, additionally, still will ask about symptoms — like whether the employees have had a sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath.

Testing

To date, Iowa has received 6,888 negative COVID-19 test results to date.

The UI-based State Hygienic Lab has been the go-to source for testing, although other labs have testing capabilities and UIHC last week began conducting its own tests. UIHC Chief Medical Office Theresa Brennan said its test turnaround time can be as quick as four to six hours, providing reassurance to patients and providers needing direction for isolation and potential spread.

Although testing criteria issued by the state has changed, and UIHC has flexibility with its own testing, current criteria limits testing to:

Hospitalized patients with fever and respiratory failure and no alternate diagnosis;

Adults over age 60 with fever and respiratory symptoms — like cough and trouble breathing — and chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, or chronic kidney disease;

People with fever or respiratory illness who live in a congregate setting like a long-term care facility, dormitory, residential home, correctional facility, or treatment center;

And essential services personnel with fever or respiratory illness — including health care providers, fire and EMS personnel, law enforcement officers, residential facility staff members.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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