St. David’s HealthCare discusses coronavirus preparedness efforts, new verbal respiratory screening

The new screening protocol is being done at the entrance to every emergency room within the St. David's Network. The screening, which will take place next to tables already set up for those with the flu, now includes a coronavirus Q&A session with a hospital staff member.

"They'll ask a few simple questions, like have you had a fever, cough, sore throat or flu symptoms,” said Dr. Ken Mitchell, St David's Chief Medical Officer.

The new coronavirus protocol was announced Thursday at the St. David’s Medical Center in Central Austin.

"So this is definitely a preventative measure that we are instituting today,” said Dr. Mitchell.

Protective masks will be given to those who don’t clear the screening. Family members who are with them will also get a mask. As part of the process, the ER Waiting Room will be off-limits.

Dr. Mitchell described the holding area to be used, "Most likely into a room, that has a special pressure, negative pressure arrangement." 

While the hospital is trying to ease concerns, people who were downtown spoke to FOX7 and said they still have a lot of questions fueling their concern. "It's kind of seems like, it’s inevitable to get it like and there is not much you can do,” Mike Venman.

Milli Batts is also worried but noted, we all take risks every day. “So that’s the scary part, that scars everyone, you don’t know if you walk into an environment what you are coming in to,” said Batts.

The frustrating thing, for Derrien Cotton, is all the uncertainty. "It’s the unknown which is making everyone else freak out, which makes you think, I'm not freaking out, maybe I don’t know enough,” said Cotton.
In addressing coronavirus fear, Dr. Mitchell said there is one big thing to remember. The first step, if you feel sick and the symptoms are initially mild, stay home. The next step is, not to go to a hospital or clinic, but to call your doctor. The call, according to Dr. Mitchell will help prevent health providers form being caught off guard.

"So you can be advised on some additional precautions so they can be ready for you and have proper personal protective equipment,” said Dr. Mitchell.

Prevention starts with basic hygiene. Hot soapy water is the gold standard. Using hand sanitizers during the day and cleaning surfaces, door handles and knobs can also help. Touching money or someone's clothing are things Dr. Mitchell says we should not worry about, "If a major outbreak happens, St. David's and other hospitals have a larger containment plan. We saw part of that plan just a few years ago."

Triage tents were set up in 2009. They were used at the Dell Children's hospital in response to a swine flu outbreak. St. David also has mobile medical facilities, but there are no plans to use them now.

"All of our hospitals have tents available and those could be deployed in a matter of hours,” said Dr. Mitchell.

The panic buying of mask and protective clothing, that’s been going on in some locations according to Dr. Mitchell, is unnecessary at this time.


With more than 90,000 confirmed cases worldwide, a growing list of nations are preparing for the illness to breach their borders.

The U.S.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned the American public to take a potential outbreak of the disease seriously.