Auburn Villager

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread in the Lee County community as EAMC officials prepare for an expected surge in the coming weeks. 

As of Thursday morning, Lee County had 285 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 12 reported deaths, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Last Wednesday, Lee County had 187 Covid-19 cases. EAMC has seen at least 106 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 over the course of the outbreak.

The number of cases has also continued to rise statewide, with over 4,200 confirmed cases, 126 reported deaths and 553 hospitalizations in Alabama. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the Stay at Home health order issued on April 3 appears to be working, although she added that it was too soon to lay out a timeline for easing off the order, which expires on April 30. State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said a surge of Covid-19 cases is expected across the state in the coming weeks. EAMC has surge contingency plans in place, according to Dr. Steven Presley, a hospitalist at EAMC.

"We continue to track ICU admissions and hospital admissions and we also track the number of positive tests that are reported to our HealthPlus and AU Medical Clinic and Lanier sites," he said. "As those numbers all start decreasing, we'll continue to be encouraged that maybe we are over the hump.

"We are hoping that our hospital probably was in front of the surge in the state, and we believe that we may precede the state in reaching our peak and then beginning hopefully for our numbers to move down some."

There have been no confirmed cases out of about 30 city of Auburn employees who have been tested for Covid-19 so far, said City Manager Jim Buston, although the city is awaiting results from a handful of tests. The city has also allowed employees to work from home if they want to and if their job allows for it. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the community, from shuttering or curtailing businesses to throwing many into unemployment. 

Frontline workers at EAMC have also been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, both physically and emotionally. 

Several EAMC employees have tested positive for Covid-19, although none of the 14 hospitalists has tested positive. 

EAMC has tried to help its employees deal with the emotional impact of the crisis, offering free counseling and providing prayer support through the hospital's full-time chaplain or volunteer chaplains in the community. 

"Our chief medical officer, Dr. Bill Golden, has provided all of the physicians with some helpful techniques and websites for coping with crises like this," said Presley. "For me, personally, it's obviously been a point where I've really depended upon the Lord and my faith and ... his Word and the encouragement and prayer support of friends and family."

This week, EAMC also established respite areas for employees to decompress and rest, providing drinks, snacks and reading material. 

"It's just a chance for them to get away and have that," said John Atkinson, EAMC's director of public relations and marketing. "We have one outside of the main ICU. We have one near secondary ICU area, and then we have one outside of the ER."

EAMC has also taken measures to launch Telehealth for many of its physician practices so that patients can visit their doctors virtually on their phone or through video chat.

To keep up with Covid-19 updates from EAMC, visit www.eamc.org/patient-and-guests/covid-19-information/.

Updates can also be found at the Alabama Department of Public Health's website at www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/2019-coronavirus.html

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