Tehachapi residents, healthcare professionals, and staff at Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley are preparing for any coronavirus cases that may occur within Greater Tehachapi.
“We are staying home much more, not eating out at all,” said Laraine Bigger, a Golden Hills resident. “When going to a store we take hand wipes in with us, wiping the cart handles, wiping our hands after leaving and washing our hands and door handles as soon as we get home.”
Lisa Hughes, a city resident, said a few relatives in Tehachapi had seen a doctor recently, and were screened but not tested for the coronavirus. One relative had reason to believe they may have been exposed to the virus via another person who returned from a cruise.
“It’s frustrating to think you must have to be really bad to get a test from here,” Hughes wrote in an email. She added, “If we want this town to get back to what will be the normal, we need this town to be tested and done with.”
AHTV hospital has made a few changes.
The hospital is screening patients and employees at the entrance. Patient visitors are not allowed into the building, except for very limited circumstances, and they are encouraged to use Facetime, Skype or another video platform to stay connected to their loved one.
“Clinicians are evaluating the situation daily, and these policies will remain in place until it is determined that we can return to a normal operating environment,” AHTV President Jeff Lingerfelt said in an email.
Many AHTV employees not directly involved with patient care are working from home and health fairs, foundation galas and events are canceled until further notice.
The hospital has isolation rooms, protocols for donning personal protective equipment for staff, and testing supplies, and staff are prepared for the treatment of patients with COVID-19-like symptoms.
In an email, Dr. Ramesh Nathan, Adventist Health infectious disease specialist, said, “We appreciate the collaboration between government, health experts and Adventist Health. Together, we are all playing an important role to address COVID-19.”
As of Monday morning, Kern County had 11 people who tested positive for the COVID-19, 10 residents along with one visitor. There are also 292 pending tests and 185 tests have come back negative, said the Kern County Public Health Services Department website.
Healthcare providers can test patients for COVID-19 and are required to notify Kern County Public Health Services Department.
Omni Family Health, Priority Urgent Care and Accelerated Urgent Care in Bakersfield and all hospitals in Kern County are able to test, Kern County Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine said at a press conference in Bakersfield.
“The testing procedures are in place,” Constantine said. “Public Health is actively meeting with all those entities to ensure that we are doing everything we can on a local level to help prevent potential exposure and potential transmission.”
Some healthcare clinics and private doctor’s offices in Tehachapi are referring patients who feel they need coronavirus testing to Bakersfield, while others didn't specify if they offered testing in-house.
Healthcare clinics in Tehachapi include: Omni Family Health, Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Health Medical Office and other doctor’s offices.
Brooke Burgess, spokesperson for Dignity Health, said, “Our Tehachapi clinic is open and has implemented a number of safety protocols and precautions in alignment with the latest guidance from health officials and the CDC to help keep patients and care teams safe and healthy.”
These precautions mean that residents who have upcoming appointments, be it routine or elective visits, may be rescheduled, or use of a telephone or virtual options for appointments might be taken, said Burgess.
Kaiser Permanente in Tehachapi is following similar healthcare protocols.
“The safety of our members, patients, staff and physicians is our highest priority. We are continuing to care for our members with telephone visits and other virtual care platforms," said Dr. Marvin Campos, medical director for Kaiser Permanente Kern County, in an email. "We are screening patients when entering our facilities so that we can provide the most appropriate care and to keep everyone safe."
If a patient suspects they may have the coronavirus and a doctor confirms that testing is needed, the case will be entered into an electronic system and the member will need to visit a mobile health vehicle located in Bakersfield. Patients should first call before coming in, said information provided in an email by Kaiser Permanente.
Symptoms of COVID-19
If a person believes they have COVID-19 and have symptoms of fever, cough and difficulty breathing, they should call their healthcare provider. The doctor can then screen them over the phone, use teleconferencing and then see if a test is needed, added Constantine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning your hands frequently, staying home if you are sick, calling ahead before visiting your doctor, wearing a face mask if you are sick, and frequently cleaning all high-use surfaces, according to cdc.gov.