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First case of COVID-19 found in Tri-Lakes

Coronavirus (Image provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

SARANAC LAKE — The first case of COVID-19 in the Tri-Lakes area has been confirmed.

In an internal email obtained by the Enterprise, Adirondack Health CEO Sylvia Getman on Tuesday morning confirmed to staff, board members and other stakeholders that the hospital has seen its first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The patient came into the Saranac Lake hospital’s emergency room this past Friday, March 13. The person was immediately placed in an isolation room at the hospital, and a specimen was collected for testing. The person was then discharged, Getman said.

At that time, hospitals were required to first get authorization from the state and county departments of health before sending a specimen to a lab to be tested for COVID-19. The process has changed since then, giving doctors the authority to order tests directly.

The patient — whose name, age and gender and place of residence were not made public Tuesday — is still at home and is being monitored by the Essex County Health Department, Getman said.

The Health Department county is working to trace this person’s contacts and reach out to those who many have come in contact with them, Health Department Public Information Officer Andrea Whitmarsh said.

“We put them under quarantine,” Whitmarsh said. “They have been under our quarantine guidelines and have been complying. We’re going to continue that quarantine and just be following up to do contact tracing to ensure the safety of our community members.”

As of Tuesday evening, another 21 Adirondack Health patients were awaiting results from their tests for COVID-19, according to Adirondack Health spokesman Matt Scollin.

The Saranac Lake hospital received approval from the state on Tuesday to start a COVID-19 clinic, which is now open. Anyone who suspects they have contracted COVID-19 is encouraged to call the clinic at 518-897-2462. If you’re experiencing trouble breathing, call 911.

Testing

The state is continuing to contract with more private labs to ramp up its testing capabilities. The state Department of Health had brought in 28 private labs as of Sunday to help conduct testing. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that means a total testing capability of 6,000 per day.

As the state brings more private labs into the testing rotation for COVID-19, the time period for results to come back is varying anywhere from 24 hours to upward of five days at hospitals around the region, according to Scollin. The time period for results to return is different on a case-by-case basis in part because some samples are now being sent to private labs farther away, rather than the lab the hospital typically would send samples to in Albany.

The hospital is working on securing a 40-by-80-foot tent if it needs more capacity for testing.

Supply levels are good, Scollin said. Adirondack Health has enough swabs, testing liquid and tubes to collect samples from patients for testing. This typically requires a clinician inserting a swab into a patient’s nostril.

“Right now we have what we need,” he said.

The hospital is coordinating with the state and county departments of health in real time to ensure their supply levels remain where they needs to be, according to Scollin.

“We are absolutely on top of it,” he said.

Hospital beds

Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake has 51 staffed beds for patients, Scollin said. That doesn’t include beds that are being reserved for obstetrics patients or beds in the hospital’s geriatric psychiatry unit in Saranac Lake. Scollin said the Saranac Lake hospital has one negative-pressure room in its obstetrics unit, so if a pregnant woman who has COVID-19 goes into labor, the hospital can deliver that birth.

Scollin said the hospital’s ability to scale up its capacity will depend upon a number of factors, including how many patients are in house who don’t have COVID-19 versus those that do, and how quickly patients come and go. Adirondack Health officials are working to secure another location for beds if they’re needed.

Getman: Process worked

Getman said the hospital’s “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and contact protocols” that were implemented to manage the outbreak were followed when this patient entered the ER.

“The patient was immediately placed in an isolation room and a formal review of the visit did not identify any exposure to the Adirondack Health staff who rendered care,” she wrote. “In other words, the process worked because we were, and remain, prepared. And we’ll need to be, because while this represents the first positive COVID-19 case identified at Adirondack Health, it is very unlikely to be the last. As a health system, we now shift from anticipation to execution.”

She added, “As our communities hunker down for the long haul, they know that those of us who need to be here working are working, every day, around the clock, to keep our friends and neighbors safe amidst big unknowns. So, here we go. By continuing to rely on our training, our preparedness, and each other, we’ll see this through.”

“Thanks to our close working relationship with Adirondack Health, we have been on the same page since the patient first presented,” Linda Beers, director of the Essex County Health Department, said in a statement. “We encourage all North Country residents to remain vigilant and socially distant to the greatest extent possible. We also cannot overstate the importance of proper hand hygiene.”

Numbers keep rising

New York has the most COVID-19 cases of any state in the U.S. Statewide, the number of confirmed cases rose to 1,374 on Tuesday, up by 432 from Monday, according to the state Department of Health. Twelve people have died from the disease in New York state as of Tuesday evening.

There are now confirmed cases in all 50 states, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization on Monday reported 167,515 cases and 6,606 deaths.