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WINCHESTER — As the number of regional coronavirus cases increased on Friday, Valley Health announced three new programs to help infected people or those showing virus symptoms.
The goal, according to Valley Health, is to maximize resources for the sickest patients in-house and reduce contamination risks by minimizing in-patient visits to the hospital. The programs are designed to cope with the rapidly spreading pandemic. Valley Health is a six-hospital regional chain that includes Winchester Medical Center (WMC).
A week after the first person in the Lord Fairfax Health District was diagnosed with the virus, the number grew to 10 on Friday, according to Dr. Colin M. Greene, district health director. The district consists of Winchester, as well as Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties.
On Friday, there were four cases in Frederick County, three in Shenandoah County and two in Warren County. Greene said he didn’t know the age, sex or home community of the 10th patient. The ages of the first nine range from a woman in her 30s to a man in his 80s.
They are among 604 cases in Virginia and nearly 100,000 in the U.S., according to the Virginia Department of Health and the John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. No one in the region has died from the virus that has killed 14 in Virginia, about 1,400 in the U.S. and some 27,000 globally. There is no vaccine.
Valley Health’s new programs are:
• A COVID-19 hotline for people with coughing, fever or other virus symptoms. The number to call is 540-536-0380 and the line will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m to 6 p.m. Saturday. It will initially be staffed by four people, but that number could increase based on demand, said Dr. Jeffrey Feit, who is overseeing the hospital’s outpatient coronavirus response.
• A “telehealth” system allowing for video examinations online or or by phone. Feit said the service would be for patients who don’t have a primary care provider or have one who doesn’t provide telehealth.
• A respiratory care clinic that opened on Thursday next to the Valley Health System Urgent Care clinic at 160 Merchant St. in Rutherford Crossing. The respiratory clinic is for people who have displayed COVID-19 symptoms and need chest X-rays and physical exams.
Feit praised his colleagues for innovative solutions that are being created on the fly such as drive-by testing. “The engagement of the team at Valley Health System and the incredible engagement of community physicians coming together to do this together is really what’s going to make it work,” he said.
The programs come as hospitals around the nation say they lack personal protective equipment like N95 surgical masks and ventilators. Carol S. Weare, Valley Health spokeswoman, said WMC has 495 beds and 48 critical care rooms. Mark H. Merrill, Valley Health CEO and president, said the hospital system has about 175 ventilators for all of its hospitals with about 100 of them at WMC.
Weare said the hospital system — which stopped elective surgeries on Monday to preserve resources — will adapt if cases surge. She said “high-intensity respiratory units” have been created to accommodate virus patients. “We’re looking at how to reshape our space if necessary,” she said.