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Novant Health’s Dr. John Bream: Increase in cases means people getting tested

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Dr. John Bream, medical director of the emergency Department at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, is encouraging people to be socially responsible while also not panicking.

He said that includes no handshakes or hugs and that people should continue to be cognizant of social distancing, which includes being six feet apart from another person.

Bream spoke to the Post about a range of issues associated with coronavirus that’s spreading across the country and the world, too. Bream said the medical community continues to stay abreast of new information as it becomes available and that there’s much unknown about specifics of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19).

“It is widely accepted in the scientific community that community spread has been occurring. While it’s not still as common a mechanism of acquiring the disease in the United States that we are aware of, we do know that community transmission has occurred,” he said.

As of late Wednesday, there were 63 cases in North Carolina of COVID-19, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That number was a big increase from the prior day largely because a cluster of 15 cases in Durham County.

“Expect the number of cases to double over the next 24 hours and for the next few weeks. What that tells us is that people are getting tested,” he said.

Guidelines for testing have changed, he said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have opted for a more physician discretion policy.

“The CDC is constantly adjusting its guidelines and the NC Department of Health and Human Services have now more recommended testing for people who have fever, chills, cough and negative flu (results), without the travel restrictions,” he said. “The amount of testing that’s being done currently remains a grave concern to the medical community.”

Bream said, to his knowledge, there has not been anyone in Rowan County who has tested positive for the coronavirus. The state’s official tally says the same.

“We are doing everything we can to test as many people as possible, especially those who are of the highest risk,” Bream said.

It’s no secret, he said, that testing supplies are in short order and under high demand. The same is true for chemicals needed to conduct tests, reagent.

“Unfortunately, we all realized the amount of equipment we have is just not going to be enough. Everything is on backorder. The public should not panic. We will have everything they need,” Bream said.

He said hospital staff have worked hard to educate patients about visitor restrictions and on educating staff. The hospital sends daily messages to staff about the coronavirus, he said.

“It has been certainly an atmosphere of team work,” Beam said. “It’s truly an all-hands-on-deck situation.”

He said some aspects of hospital work have changed because of encouragement to work from home for those who can.

“Professionally we are adapting to life without some of our nonclinical personnel who can work from home, like case management,” he said. “If someone might need a consult, we do everything we can by telephone or Skype conference.”

Before the coronavirus crisis, staff meetings were conducted in person in a conference room and, now, doctors and staff meet via a conference call.

“We are making all reasonable opportunities to social distance within the hospital and reasonable possibilities to social distance in the waiting room,” Bream said

Employees will have to be screened by temperature upon arrival and are funneled through a specific entrance, he said.

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