The two major hospital chains in East Texas are asking people who have flu-like symptoms or believe they have been exposed to the coronavirus to call a health professional before coming to an emergency room or doctor’s office.

Efforts to identify and isolate those who may have the virus are part of a nationwide strategy to slow the spread of the virus. There have been only a few diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Smith, Gregg and Rusk counties. Others may have the virus but not have symptoms or only mild symptoms.

“If you are ill with fever or cough or shortness of breath and have had travel to any region that has known community spread of coronavirus or ... exposure to a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, call 1-800-458-4559 to be connected to our Christus COVID Hotline,” say guidelines from the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System.

Christus is prepared to treat people diagnosed with the virus.

“In the event that possible coronavirus patients need hospitalization after screening, we have identified a portion of our facility as the best place to allow us to isolate and safely care for any potential patients without risk of transmission to other parts of the facility,” the statement said. “If a patient meets the current CDC criteria, and is exhibiting symptoms consistent with the virus, we will isolate the patient in a private room and take proper respiratory precautions to safely assess and treat them.”

UT Health East Texas is advising people who feel ill and it is an emergency, to call 911.

“Describe your symptoms and provide any information you have about recent international travel or contact with someone known to have COVID-19,” said guidelines from the health system.

Those who are sick but do not believe it is an emergency are asked to call the their primary care or specialty care provider, or an urgent care center.

Health professionals will ask callers whether they have been to countries or areas of the United States that have had an outbreak and whether they have had contact with someone who has coronavirus.

UT Health East Texas said it will deliver required medical care to patients diagnosed with the virus.

“Our expert, well-trained clinicians regularly care for patients with severe respiratory illnesses and other infectious diseases,” said a company statement. “Our providers and staff follow best practices, using recommended tools and techniques to protect themselves, including the use of personal protective equipment.”

COVID-19 may be spread by an infected person for several days before their symptoms appear, and might be spread through the airborne route, meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others, even after the ill person is no longer near, said information posted on UT Health East Texas website.

Health professionals are advising people at this time to stay home if they are sick, to avoid groups and to wash their hands frequently.


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Danny Mogle has covered news in East Texas for decades. He currently focuses on arts, entertainment and human interest stories and serves as the editor of Lifestyles Magazine.