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Banner Health and Abrazo, two of the largest medical providers in the West Valley, have new policies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Abrazo Health is monitoring information from federal, state and local public health agencies for current information on the coronavirus,” said Keith Jones, a spokesman for Abrazo. “Our hospitals have taken the appropriate steps, and we have trained professionals and the necessary equipment to react accordingly.”

He noted visitors are being screened.

“As with any communicable disease, as our patients enter the hospital in areas such as emergency department or registration, hospital staff are questioning all of their recent travel and detailing symptoms. We evaluate relevant symptom criteria and implement contact airborne isolation, if required, without delay,” Jones said.

“Our clinical teams are in constant review of infection prevention processes and update patient screenings as recommended by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” Jones said.

Many have questions about when and where they should be tested for COVID-19.

“Testing is not conducted at our facility,” Jones said. 

“If a patient presents at our hospital and meets CDC criteria, we work with our local health department and if appropriate, gather a sample for testing and provide it to a CDC-appointed laboratory. We follow CDC guidelines for identification and treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus.”

Banner Health did not respond to questions from the West Valley View.

Banner Health’s website does address the issue.

“Banner Health has developed a process to safely screen patients for COVID-19 in our primary care clinics. In order to be screened in one of these clinics, patients would need to meet CDC criteria for testing. This can be determined through a phone conversation with one of our team members,” said the website.

“If you or a loved one has concerning symptoms, please call your primary care doctor’s office to discuss your symptoms and determine if in-person evaluation or testing is necessary.

“Patients that meet criteria for further in-person evaluation or testing will be scheduled for an appointment to be seen at one of our clinics and provided with instructions for how to safely enter the building in cooperation with the on-site medical team. 

“If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and believe you are experiencing a medical event that requires immediate attention, please visit a Banner emergency room for evaluation, treatment and testing, if needed.”

Those with symptoms are advised by Banner to exercise precautions: “Please put on a mask immediately upon arriving to protect other patients, visitors and health care workers ... Masks are provided directly inside the main entrance and emergency room lobbies.”

Banner also has visitor restrictions in place.

“Individuals who are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, vomiting or diarrhea should not visit Banner hospitals unless they are seeking medical care.”

Banner is restricting hospital patients to two visitors, over the age of 12. “Exceptions will be considered in end-of-life circumstances.”

“In addition to these restrictions, we ask that children 12 and under always be supervised by an adult in public waiting areas and cafeterias. Visitors are highly encouraged to wash or sanitize hands frequently while at the hospital to prevent contracting or potentially spreading any illness.”

Banner is also closing some hospital entrances, though main entrances and emergency room entrances will be open at all Banner hospitals.

Governor guidance

Gov. Doug Ducey also issued guidance on COVID-19.

If you think you should be tested, Ducey said, “Call your health care professional if you feel sick with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. 

“Your health care provider will work with the local health department and (Arizona Department of Health Services) to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.”

As for prevention, Ducey said the best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses are to:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For more information, visit azhealth.gov/COVID19.

On March 11, Ducey issued a Declaration of Emergency “to provide health officials and administrators with tools and guidance necessary to combat the continued spread of COVID-19 and to reduce financial burdens on Arizonans by lowering healthcare costs associated with the virus.”

The following day, Arizona received over $12.4 million from the CDC to support the public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Key funding priorities were to include surveillance and investigation activities, laboratory testing, infection control supply procurement and distribution and risk communication.

Ducey signed legislation March 12 to appropriate $55 million to Arizona’s Public Health Emergency Fund to support the state’s continued efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.