WATCH: Health First CEO Steve Johnson Discusses COVID-19: ‘Rest Assured, We are Here for You’

By  //  March 15, 2020

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'we are closely monitoring the situation and working with the Department of Health and the CDC to protect you'

WATCH: Steve Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Health First, issued a video statement assuring the community that Brevard County’s largest health care provider is well prepared to handle COVID-19. (Health First video)

HEALTH FIRST: Information about COVID-19 is constantly changing. What won’t change is our commitment to you. Steve Johnson, CEO of Health First, shares that we have served the community for over 80 years, and we are well-equipped to continue that honor.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Steve, Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Health First, issued a video statement assuring the community that Brevard County’s largest health care provider is well prepared to handle COVID-19.

“As information is released regarding COVID-19, I want you to know we are closely monitoring the situation and working with the Department of Health and the CDC to protect you,” said Johnson.

“We train for situations such as this and have implemented processes to ensure we can continue to provide you with safe, high-quality care. We are screening visitors at all of our facilities. We are also monitoring our employees to confirm they are healthy and ready to work and we have sufficient supplies needed to care for anyone who may be concerned about COVID-19.

“Thank you for entrusting Health First with your care and rest assured, we are here for you.”

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Health First officials also provided Space Coast residents the following additional information:

As COVID-19 spreads, Health First experts explain the symptoms, how testing works and how to protect you and your family. Health First continues to monitor the threat of COVID-19 through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health.

The situation is fluid, and we are monitoring it daily. Please know we train for situations like this, and we are prepared.

If you need medical care, please call Centralized Scheduling at 321-434-3131.

For your safety and convenience, you may have the opportunity to schedule a virtual visit, which allows you to talk with a provider from the comfort of your home.

For your safety and protection, as well as everyone in the hospital, we are following the Florida Department of Health guidelines to screen visitors at all of our hospital entrances.

If someone answers yes to any of the following questions, based on Department of Health guidelines, we will not be able to allow them into the hospital.

1. Have you returned from a cruise or any international travel within the last 14 days?

2. Do you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath?

3. Have you had contact with someone who has or is under investigation for COVID-19?

Please know we are doing everything we can to protect our patients and members of the community…and this screening effort is part of that. We apologize for any convenience.

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The CDC recommends simple actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick

• Stay home if you are not feeling well

• Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I go for more information about COVID-19?

The Florida Department of Health has a hotline set up and it is open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. every day. Please call 1.866.779.6121 for more information.

What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). COVID-19 is a “novel” coronavirus (nCoV) – that basically means it’s a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is usually transmitted by droplets from one infected individual to another – for example, when someone sneezes or coughs within six feet of another person. If someone with COVID-19 touches a surface or object, the virus can linger on that surface. After a person is initially infected, it may take up to 14 days before they test positive or develop the symptoms of COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of a COVID-19 infection?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some people who are infected might also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms tend to start off mild and begin gradually.

Keep in mind, some people who become infected with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms or feel unwell. Most people recover without needing special treatment.

People at risk include the elderly or people with underlying health problems, such as chronic lung disease. In severe cases, it may cause pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome. COVID-19 does not appear to be as virulent as other coronaviruses, such as the previous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

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What is Health First doing about the virus?

Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Florida Department of Health, we are quickly and accurately sharing information with our clinical teams. We are well-trained and knowledgeable in managing patients with infectious respiratory illnesses and will continue to follow our established protocols. We are prepared – and regularly train for situations like this.

Is there a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19?

Since COVID-19 is a new strain of the virus, there is no vaccine at the moment. There is also no specific treatment for the virus. Treatment is supportive, particularly when people with other health conditions find their conditions are made worse by the infection.

What can I do to avoid respiratory illnesses of all types?

Respiratory etiquette is critical to stay healthy. It’s important to stick to the basics, such as:

• Avoiding contact with others if you are sick or they are sick

• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing (or sneezing into the crook of your elbow)

• Throwing away used tissues immediately

• Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer that is 60% alcohol-based.

• Air-dry your hands or use a clean towel to dry your hands

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

• Clean and disinfect “high-touch” areas and objects often. This means regularly disinfecting counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tables and bedside tables – places where COVID-19 could possibly linger.

• Clean any surfaces that have blood, stool or any bodily fluids on them

• Avoid sharing food or drinks with others

• Take care of yourself – get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals

• Call your doctor before visiting

Will a surgical mask prevent me from being infected with COVID-19?

No. A surgical mask won’t filter aerosols once they’ve been transmitted by an infected individual.

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

If you have returned from ANY international travel or a cruise within the last 14 days and you have fever, cough or shortness of breath – or if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has recently returned from international travel or a cruise and has any of the symptoms – you should call your primary care provider or the Brevard County Health Department.

What is involved with testing someone for COVID-19?

If you fall under the above-listed parameters and have possibly been exposed, you will be tested – and oral, nasal and saliva specimens will all be taken. Samples will be given to the county health department and sent to the closest lab, which is in Jacksonville. Test results are usually available within 24 to 48 hours.

For more information log on to HF.org

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