Johns Hopkins Prepares for Coronavirus: Ask the Expert

Published in Dome - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Articles March — June 2020 and Dome - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Articles

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are using our expertise with infectious disease and prevention to treat patients infected with the new coronavirus and to help lessen the spread of COVID-19. Respiratory disease specialist Brian Garibaldi, who directs the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit (BCU), and Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins, explain the steps Johns Hopkins Medicine is taking to keep patients safe and ensure optimal care.

Is Johns Hopkins Medicine prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. As we watched the spread of the new coronavirus, starting in December 2019, all of our affiliated hospitals began preparing to safely provide care for patients with COVID-19 using current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our health system infection prevention team.

The preparedness plan involves working with our critical care and respiratory colleagues, as well as our state and regional partners, to make sure we can care for patients with confirmed COVID-19 who might require a higher level of care.

What happens if someone with COVID-19 is sent to a Johns Hopkins Medicine hospital?

Most people affected with COVID-19 can recuperate at home, and we are providing ways, including telemedicine, to help those people communicate with our medical teams and notify us if their situation changes.

However, for patients with severe cases of COVID-19 that require hospital care, we collect samples and send them to laboratories to be tested for the new coronavirus.

Patients who are hospitalized receive supportive care, as they would for other respiratory viral illnesses. In severe cases, breathing may be difficult, and for those patients we provide oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

Does Johns Hopkins have enough staff, beds and equipment to care for a large influx of COVID-19 patients?

As a leading medical and research center, Johns Hopkins has expertise in infectious disease and its potential impact on communities. We are doing several things to prepare for a possible influx of COVID-19 patients:

  • We are partnering across our health system, which includes six hospitals, to share our resources.
  • We are also collaborating with partners at other health care organizations, public health authorities and policy leaders to share resources and plan to care for people if demand increases beyond available beds.
  • We have hundreds of ventilators at our hospitals and have requested more in case we need them.

If doctors, nurses and technologists become sick, are there people who can take over for them?

Staffing and maintenance of our health care providers and support teams is a major focus of our preparation. During this pandemic, some staff or their families may get sick. That’s why we are ready to deploy staff from other medical areas to help if needed.

Does Johns Hopkins only treat local patients with COVID-19, or is there a chance that additional patients would come from elsewhere?

Our focus will be mostly in serving patients from our local community, as we usually do. But we will provide care for anyone who seeks it or is transferred here.

How is Johns Hopkins protecting patients in its hospitals who don’t have COVID-19, especially in light of the possibility that the coronavirus could be airborne?

We continue to keep monitoring the needs of all patients and our resources during this pandemic. However, the effort of each person in our community is crucial to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Everyone should do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through physical distancing, self-quarantine (if appropriate)handwashing and other preventive steps as outlined by local and state agencies.

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