UMMS: All take part in coronavirus battle

BALTIMORE — University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) leaders shared words of warning, gratitude and encouragement in a live webinar on April 1, as they addressed their organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the main points of the talk, presented by President/CEO Dr. Mohan Suntha and Incident Commander Dr. David Marcozzi, were plans for patient care and urging citizens to reach out to one another.

“You are an invaluable part of the COVID-19 response,” Dr. Suntha said.
He told participants in the online discussion that from a health-care worker’s perspective, the best way to say thank you is to simply follow directions issued by the state, especially to maintain social distancing. The highly contagious virus can be suppressed by following personal hygiene rules and staying home to reduce the risk of transmission.

Confirmed cases around the world continue to climb, including in Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. “There is no question that we will see that number rise,” Dr. Suntha said. “We know the surge is coming.”

To improve UMMS’s ability to treat patients, elective surgeries and appointments are being canceled. Telehealth capabilities are also being enhanced, allowing some care to be provided without doctors and patients having to be physically in contact.

Partnerships are being created with organizations including Johns Hopkins Hospital System, the Maryland Health Department and the Maryland National Guard to create bed space for a surge in infected patients. Guard troops have helped to build a temporary hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center to increase statewide access.

As for UMMS itself, “We now have internal testing capabilities for our patients,” Dr. Suntha said. This results in considerably faster results.
Dr. Marcozzi spoke on care for the community. “Every one of us has a responsibility to protect others,” he said.

He noted that the majority of those who become infected with show mild symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath and possibly a loss of taste and smell. “You don’t need to come to the hospital unless you feel it’s a true emergency,” he said.

A nurse call line at 1-888-713-0711 has been established, on which citizens can tell of their symptoms and receive advice without first going to a hospital.

Dr. Suntha mentioned the many donations of masks to UMMS. The N95 medical-grade models are by far the most effective, but other, cloth face coverings are also useful, especially for staff not in close contact with patients.

“We’ve been impressed with the ingenuity” of do-it-yourself masks, he said. Under Armour, Inc. has also stepped forward with major contributions, making 500,000 cloth masks and 50,000 fanny packs.
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Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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