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Local hospital prepares for COVID-19 outbreak

Spectrum Health says they are ready for the virus, if it makes its way to West Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — COVID-19, or coronavirus, is still a relatively small threat to the United States. 

Still, fear of the spread grows, and local health officials want the community to know they have a plan. 

"We know it's going to spread," said Julie Bulson, the Director of business and assurance at Spectrum Health, "and we're not denying the fact that we'll get more cases. It's just a matter of how we respond. If you're sick, stay home."

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Bulson said there are signs in the emergency department at Spectrum Health, alerting patients to let nurses know if they have traveled to China recently. 

If so, that person is given a mask, and taken to a separate room, to stop the spread of any potential illness to the rest of the waiting room.

However, Bulson said it's safer to avoid the emergency department if you can. 

"Take advantage of tele-medicine opportunities, instead of coming into the emergency department," said Bulson, "Call into your provider or use Spectrum Health Now. Have your situation assessed by a provider, and they can give further care based on your symptoms and travel history."

Bulson said the plan for a coronavirus outbreak is the same plan they used for H1N1 and Ebola virus scares. Her department works closely with local health departments, the state, and federal agencies to be prepared. 

"We live in a country that is very focused on being proactive in our planning and preparedness," said Bulson, "we have been doing this level of preparedness since September 11th."

You can also prepare at home. Make sure to be washing hands often, and teach children the proper way to wash theirs. Prepare to be stuck inside if you do get sick, by having groceries and cleaning supplies ready. Also, make plans with your employer to take time off, or work from home. Similarly, have childcare prepared in the case you are sick, and don't want to pass the illness to them. 

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