Moving forward amid hopes that the initial pandemic is tapering off, hospitals are opening to wider services while keeping a close watch on the unpredictable virus. In the coming days, patients and other people planning to enter hospital facilities can expect precautions that could include:

  • Temperature checks and screening for symptoms and exposure to COVID-19.
  • Arrival of not more than 15 minutes before an appointment.
  • Social distancing in waiting rooms.
  • Pathways to separate non-COVID-19 patients from those with the virus.
  • Continued visitation restrictions.
  • Masks required for patients, providers and staff.

“Masking is very, very important so that the asymptomatic (carrier) can prevent secretions from infecting others,” said Rutul Dalal, MD, FIDSA, medical director for Infectious Diseases at UPMC Susquehanna.

Lessons learned in the past few months are guiding local hospitals in future protocols.

“All hospitals and health systems have learned a lot about the staffing, supplies and capacity needs of a pandemic of such massive proportions,” said Dr. Gerald Maloney, Geisinger’s chief medical officer for Hospital Services. “As a large health system, we were fortunately well prepared to manage a crisis like this. Our employees have really stepped up to the plate to help our communities during this unprecedented time. To date, about 2,000 employees have accepted reassignments into new roles.

“We have been aggressive in obtaining supplies and tactful in making sure our teams properly conserve critical supplies and equipment. Because of these efforts we have been able to allocate staff, resources and capacity in areas of need. We continue to learn from this ongoing crisis, and will be even better prepared for such an event in the future.”

“We’ve certainly learned lessons along the way, but there is still more to asses and review until the pandemic is declared over,” said Kendra Aucker, president and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital. “I’ve personally challenged my leadership team to begin thinking about our response on every level.

“Once the pandemic has run its course, our teams will come together to go over what went well, what had to be adjusted in midstream, and what could be done in a different way when we’re presented with this kind of pandemic situation again.”

Inside and outside hospitals, masks and social distancing are our best defense against COVID-19.

“The biggest thing is, you need to be considerate to your neighbor,” Dalal said. “It is your social courtesy. You might be asymptomatc (as a carrier), but whenever you talk, whenever you laugh, whenever you exert yourself and are huffing and puffing, running around, you will be giving the virus to other (vulnerable) populations.

“So please, be considerate to others, and wear your mask when you’re out and about. Even with social distancing, as an added barrier, it will be beneficial to help those individuals from getting infected.”

Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Send e-mail comments to her at

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