As Franklin County prepares to move to the yellow phase of reopening tomorrow, there are a number of tips employers and employees should keep in mind during this time of transition.
Several area business owners and officials participated in a Zoom call Friday with WellSpan Health representatives for important information to help them with reopening, along with updates on the disease.
Moderated by Wendy Forrester, office manager for the Shippensburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Jeannie Constable, WellSpan’s director of marketing and public relations, the call assured employers that WellSpan is there for them to help during this difficult time.
Dr. David Hoffman, VP, regional medical director, first gave some statistics revolving around COVID-19 testing.
“We have been vigorous in trying to test across communities,” he said. “In Franklin County, out of 23,000 residents, we have reported 2,370 positive cases. We are starting to see the numbers drop off, which is a good sign. Between Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals, we had a total of 113 people on ventilators, and are reporting a 60 percent survival rate. Which is good because, at the beginning, New York was reporting a 15 percent survival rate.”
Hoffman noted they are seeing several patients from the county’s Hispanic population, which he said is likely attributed to multiple generations living in the same household that makes it tough to practice social distancing.
Hoffman said over the next 12 to 18 months, we will be seeing people wearing masks. He encouraged people to also continue with proper hygiene practices by washing their hands for at least 20 seconds, cleaning off their work areas and spaces, and, if possible, redesigning desk configurations to keep employees from sitting right next to one another. He also encouraged staggering shifts in break rooms.
“WellSpan is definitely your partner during this difficult time,” Hoffman assured. “We will be there to help ensure that you are operating safely for your staff and employees. Also, please do not ignore other health issues. We are very efficient in using appropriate gear to treat you. If you need emergency care, please come to the ER and we can treat you safely.”
Ginger Everhart, administrative director of physical medicine, wound care and hyperbaric medicine, gave some tips on activity and safely returning to the job.
She noted that during these last few months, her job has changed and she has been sitting at a desk a lot.
“I’ve known for 20 years how quickly muscle can break down, and how quickly our bodies can get used to inactivity,” she said. “I was amazed at how these changes affected how I felt physically. I had less energy at the end of the day. It happens quickly, no matter how much you know and how much you move.”
She cited a study done several years ago on healthy 18-year-old college athletes that found they were displaying signs of fiber misalignment within 24 to 48 hours of inactivity, and added muscle can begin to break down in as little as two weeks.
Everhart noted that employees with physically demanding jobs should start to exercise some before returning to work to prevent from becoming overwhelmed. She added WellSpan Health is going to begin posting virtual exercise classes in the near future, and to check for updates on their Facebook page. She also noted there are a number of resources online for home workouts.
Everhart also touted the importance of taking breaks to stretch, change position and posture, and give your eyes a rest.
She added that WellSpan has an ergonomist that specializes in work study design that can give employers and employees work site assessments, and give suggestions to improve on their physical performance, as well as boost morale.
“Employees will feel their employer cares about them when they invest in their health,” she said.
Miranda Ramsey, director of operations for WellSpan Medical Group, then gave an update on testing sites and evaluation.
She said WellSpan is operating a testing and evaluation site from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, at 97 Progress Blvd. in Shippensburg. Testing is based on a new onset of fever (within 72 hours), or a new onset of cough or shortness of breath.
Ramsey noted if residents are experiencing a new onset of symptoms, they should contact their primary care physician, or, if they do not have a PCP, call the WellSpan COVID Hotline at: 1-855-851-3641.
She noted some providers are even conducting home visits for patients who do not have access to transportation. Virtual visits are also still being conducted for symptoms of other disorders to help keep in-person contact to a minimum.
Ramsey advised against requesting testing to return to work if you are not exhibiting symptoms, even if you have been around someone who has tested positive to the virus.
“We need to be cognizant of our testing supplies, and test those who are symptomatic,” she added.
She also noted anyone who suspects they have the virus to go to the Progress Boulevard testing site so WellSpan can make every attempt at keeping suspected COVID and COVID patients out of their other clinics. Patients may also have blood drawn at the Progress Boulevard site.
“If you have an employee who tests positive, we ask that the patient isolate until they get a result. If they test positive, they are going to need to isolate themselves. They can return when they have had no fever for at least 72 hours without fever-reducing medication, and other symptoms have improved and it’s been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared. If someone has not tested positive, but lives in the home with someone who has, they should isolate for 14 days.”
Ramsey noted test results are taking three to five days to be returned, and they are working diligently with their local labs to reduce the wait time.
Patients in need of emergency care should go to Chambersburg Hospital for treatment, she noted.
Employers in need of occupational health offerings, such as CDL or driver physicals and drug screenings, can send employees to the Orchard Drive facility, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
She added employers should increase the frequency of cleaning inside their businesses, and practice social distancing when possible.
She said WellSpan has an employer toolkit on its website to help with safe practices during the transition. The information is available at: https://www.wellspan.org/coronavirus/resources-for-employers/
John Massimilla, chief operating officer of WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, ended the meeting by thanking all employees working on the front lines. He also mentioned the community rallying together to help each other, noting the employees of Beistle Co. in Shippensburg making face shields and Letterkenny Army Depot making gowns for healthcare workers.
“I want to thank our EMS and hospital workers,” he said. “They are doing a fantastic job. Without them, I don’t know where we would be.”