COVID-19 PREVENTION: How Several ABL Members Are Responding

Since the majority of the (currently) 45 confirmed COVID-19 cases in California are in the Bay Area (26), yesterday I reached out to several of ABL’s Northern California Members to see how they’re responding to the troubling news. Particularly in light of the highly infectious nature of the virus, I first spoke with ABL/East Bay Member Mike Stacey, MD, the former Director of Solano County’s Medical Services Division, where he played a key role in managing the response to communicable disease outbreaks. Given Travis Air Force Base is in Solano County — ground zero for the returning Diamond Princess passengers (22 of whom are now confirmed to have the virus), we first discussed the state of testing for COVID-19, which still relies on the CDC’s testing protocol, originally restricted to patients who were very sick, with a reason to believe they’d been exposed to the virus — through travel or exposure to a person known to have COVID-19. Mike noted that because we’re still in the midst of a bad flu season, nationwide, lots of patients present in hospitals with the flu, upper respiratory infections, or pneumonia, who don’t have COVID-19. (The CDC estimates that at least 31 million Americans have caught the flu in in the last four months — between October and February, and 12,000 people have died from it — fortunately, that’s only 0.1% of those infected, not the 3.4% current COVID-19 mortality

rate.) Mike confirmed that there are currently enough “isolation rooms” in the area’s hospitals — “but there soon won’t be.” He elaborated that as the virus spreads through the community, as was experienced in Washington State, it becomes more difficult to identify and quarantine those who might be infected. (Already, the Chronicle reports 8,700 Californians are in self-quarantine.) Soon, at least according to NPR yesterday, the CDC will be shipping close to a million test kits to state and local labs across the country, which should be available by the end of this week.

In his new role, Mike’s the Chief Medical Officer at LifeLong Medical Care, which has 16 federally qualified health centers and a number of other programs serving 66,000 low-income patients of all ages in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties. Just yesterday, Mike conducted a webinar for all their employees, updating them on the latest protocols for protecting themselves and other patients and staff when dealing with patients who may be COVID-19 infected. Because LifeLong’s patients include the homeless, a New York Times reporter flew out to speak with Mike about how COVID-19 is impacting the low-income, particularly the homeless population. So look for it later this week.

Arup Roy-Burman, MD, CEO of Elemeno Health, is another ABL Member whose digital solution is expected to be included in an upcoming national news story which will air soon. That story will be about how the UCSF Emergency Department, which uses Elemeno, conveys to everyone in the ED — over their smartphones or computers — the most recently updated CDC, County, and hospital-specific best practices for dealing with patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19. In addition to UCSF, Elemeno is also being used in Oakland Children’s Emergency Department. Beyond these EDs, Arup is currently in talks with several Bay Area Departments of Public Health about using “Elemeno sites” to create specific sub-group “electronic gathering places” for all COVID-19 news and best practices that are relevant to them. These “healthcare” sub-groups could include hospitals, SNFs, urgent and primary care clinics, as well other “public aggregation points,” such as airports and the BART system.

In the wake of the tragedy at LifeCare Center in Kirkland, Washington — where at least five deaths have been linked to the skilled nursing facility, and 50 people associated with the SNF, including residents and staff, are being tested for the virus — all facilities that care for fragile seniors with “underlying health conditions” are on alert. Fortunately, when I reached out to Grace Li, CEO of On Lok, to ask if they’d been impacted by COVID-19, she said “no,” but they’re actively doing preparedness planning. So is Debbie Toth, CEO of Choice in Aging. In fact, Debbie’s already mandated that Adult Day Health Center’s “Young at Heart Intergenerational Program,” that brings “curious preschoolers to do activities with our aging participants at Mt. Diablo Center, usually in person, to enjoy traditional Montessori activities, singalongs, story times, will now be conducted “virtually,” thanks to electronic meeting technology. Debbie also forwarded an Announcement from Contra Costa Health Services Regarding COVID-19,” she said she’d received at least five copies of it from at least five different Supervisorial sources. It is worth reading!

This past February 11th, when our ABL/Silicon Valley Members crossed the entrance of El Camino Hospital, we were pleasantly greeted by a lady who asked us if we’d been to China in the prior two weeks. As we said “No,” each of us was handed a paper badge, allowing us to enter. Yesterday I heard from Cecile Currier, ECH’S VP of Corporate & Community Health Service and CEO of Concern (EAP), when visitors enter either of El Camino’s campuses — in Mountain View or Los Gatos, our greeter will screen us to ensure we’ve not been to a “geographic area with widespread or sustain transmission, including China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Individuals who have traveled from those countries within the past 14 days will not be allowed to visit. Additionally, we are asking visitors if they are experiencing any specific symptoms related to COVID-19, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath.” And, visitors must be over 15 to enter.

Marshall Toplansky, an ABL/OC Tech Member is also a professor at Chapman University in Orange County. He’d been planning to leave for Vietnam, on Saturday, to participate in a teach-and-study abroad program. Now he’s not. As of yesterday, all of the University’s travel (and learn) abroad programs are being cancelled until (at least) the spring semester, and all students currently abroad, in Italy and South Korea, are being called back home.

I’m sure we’ll hear more “impact” stories in the weeks ahead. But, fortunately, thanks to the aggressive preventive measures already being taken, hopefully all the stories will have happy endings.

by Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Healthcare and Technology Companies

Photo Credit: San Francisco Chronicle’s Coronavirus Tracker