If you approach the entrance of North Florida Emergency West facility on Newberry Road west of Oaks Mall you will first be greeted by a sign that asks that you be prepared to answer several questions.
And through the sliding doors you will be greeted by a security guard who is wearing a surgical mask and administering those questions.
Do you have a fever and cough/shortness of breath now or within the past 7 days?
Have you traveled in the geographic areas (China, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea) within 14 days of the symptoms onset?
Have you had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days?
The screening is a protocol activated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and being followed by Alachua County Fire Rescue, Newberry City Fire Department and UF Health.
According to Alachua County Fire Rescue Captain and Health and Safety Officer Joey Malphurs, if someone calls 911, “Our dispatchers will ask what their travel history, have you been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
If the patient answers yes, “We put a surgical mask on the patient and then we would put on our protective equipment and transport them to the nearest hospital.”
This is the same protocol, “If we were going to move a patient confirmed to have COVID-19 from one hospital to another or to the airport to transport them to a containment center.
In rural areas where a patient might drive to a local fire department for help, crews are ready to follow the CDC treatment of that patient.
“You have to answer those questions,” City of Newberry Fire Chief Ben Buckner said.
“Additional precautions mean making sure we keep our distance,” Buckner said about if someone comes to the station for help or they go on a call.
“We’re not going in hazmat suits,” Buckner said. “But we’re going to disinfect when we get back. The County has a unit for that.”
No separate entrances have been established at local hospitals for patients who have COVID-19 symptoms.
Ken Garcia of UF Health Communications said,“When it comes coronavirus for UF Health as a whole, UF Health is prepared to respond to any potential cases of COVID-19, should they arise, as we have well-established protocols for addressing outbreaks of this nature.
“We follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and Florida Department of Health guidelines for identification and management of any outbreak and have procedures in place to care for any patient who meets CDC screening criteria. This includes symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath), travel from China in the past 14 days or close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea.
“We want to remind the community the best way to stay healthy is through hand washing with soap and water or by using alcohol-based sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol. Another way is to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue followed by hand washing.”