Two dozen environmental services workers at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19.
Carilion Clinic said Friday that it is continuing to investigate and trace contacts but that there is no indication any patients were exposed to the coronavirus.
“The good thing is anytime staff is with a patient, they are wearing a face mask. They are supposed to be in face masks everywhere. Also, we mask our patients as well,” said Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, medical director of infectious diseases.
But, he said, there is the possibility that employees relaxed precautions during breaks.
“We think there is room for improvement there,” he said. “We are social beings. So you are talking to somebody, you to move closer. You are eating and want to be close.”
The cluster was discovered through Carilion’s daily screening.
Each employee is required to take his or her temperature daily before reporting to work and to electronically answer questions that screen for symptoms. Entering symptoms triggers a call from employee health services, and depending on that conversation the person can be sent for screening.
Baffoe-Bonnie said that on Sept. 9 three employees in environmental services triggered the system, which then sent notifications to him.
“We quickly swooped down to the area they worked to determine if there was something more,” he said. “We began an investigation before any testing came back.”
Carilion tested a group of employees who could have been exposed and when some were positive, it then on Sept. 10 tested more than 100 environmental services workers.
That testing identified people with infections but without symptoms. To date, 24 workers have been placed on self-isolation.
More than 250 environmental services employees work at Carilion’s flagship hospital, where they handle cleaning duties. Staff is being reassigned to minimize disruptions.
Baffoe-Bonnie said they will continue testing weekly, retesting those who were negative, until no other cases are found.
Carilion also has added more signs to remind employees to keep their distance, wear masks and practice hand hygiene, and blocked off more seating so that better distancing is maintained.
Baffoe-Bonnie is a big believer in masks. But they have to be worn.
“If you have a umbrella and it rains and you only use it in one part of an area, but you don’t use it in another part of an area, you are going to get soaked,” he said. “I think that is the lesson I take from this.”
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