So you think you have the new coronavirus. Hospitals have a word of advice before you barge into the emergency room or urgent care center: Please call first.
Sutter Health and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation are following Santa Clara County Public Health Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols to identify and evaluate patients who may have contracted the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, according to Sutter's website.
If someone feels sick, first off, don't panic, they said. The flu or another respiratory virus is still the most likely cause, the medical organizations noted. Patients should contact their local public health department or their doctor for advice.
"If you feel sick enough to go to an emergency department, call ahead to alert the staff that you're coming and tell them that you're concerned you might have the new coronavirus," Sutter Health noted. "If you decide to go to the emergency department, request a mask be brought out to you before you enter the hospital to reduce the risk of exposing others."
The same holds true for going to urgent care.
Kaiser Permanente also asks patients to call the advice number on their membership card for further instructions if they have traveled to an area where there have been coronavirus outbreaks or if they have been exposed to the virus and have respiratory illness symptoms.
"It's important to call us before you come in. Calling ahead helps us direct you to the most appropriate care and take precautions to protect other members, patients and employees," Kaiser said on its website.
Stanford Health Care also said patients should call ahead to their health care providers before coming into clinic offices, according to its website.
"Our hospitals and clinical locations have taken additional measures to ensure safety for all patients, visitors and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you have specific questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask your health care provider prior to your visit," the hospital system said.
"Stanford Hospital also has well-established measures in place to prevent transmission of all communicable diseases, including flu and other respiratory illnesses. There are respiratory etiquette stations for persons visiting with cough, and hand sanitizer is available. Our staff is trained to screen patients for cough, fever and recent travel when they arrive."
El Camino Health has enacted restrictions at its hospitals in Mountain View and Los Gatos, setting temporary limits on who may visit its facilities. Hospital officials confirmed on Feb. 28 that a patient with the new coronavirus was treated at its Mountain View hospital.
Visitors at both of El Camino Health's hospitals are being screened at the doors. Anyone who has traveled within the past 14 days to a country where widespread transmission has occurred — including China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea — will not be permitted to visit patients in the hospitals. As of March 1, children under 16 are not permitted to visit patients. They are also restricted from the hospital's outpatient areas unless they are there to receive services. Hospital staff ask that only people seeking medical care or visiting a patient go to the hospitals.
Health care providers are working closely with the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health, according to a statement on the El Camino Health website.
Read our latest updates on local coronavirus cases here.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.