Hospitals put new pandemic protections in place amid rising COVID positivity rates

NEW YORK (WABC) -- One of the biggest concerns for hospitals right now with a second wave of the pandemic is capacity and having enough nurses and other medical professionals to treat patients.

Hospitals across the Tri-State are gearing up for a possible surge in patients and have put new safety protocols in place.

St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway had the first positive COVID patient in Queens.

While things are slower and steadier inside the facility now, the medical director worries about what could happen if the amount of hospitalized patients dramatically increases.

"We became the epicenter of COVID, our zip code was hit hard," Dr. Donald Morrish said.

People in the hard-hit area, surrounded by more than a dozen nursing homes, only have that hospital to turn to on the peninsula.

During the peak in March and April, they increased bed capacity and called in traveling nurses and doctors to help.

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"We might not have the manpower as we did with that first wave of COVID," Dr. Morrish said.
That was at a time when the New York City area was the only region in the country with a surge. Now, the virus is hitting communities from coast to coast and traveling medical workers are needed everywhere.

"As the pandemic rages throughout the United States these individuals might not be available or be too fatigued to come and help us," Dr. Morrish said.

Meanwhile, like all hospitals in the area, they've put new safety protocols in place for people entering the building. Visitors must wear a face mask to enter the building, check-in through a non-touch computer system, and have their temperature taken remotely.

Patients are allowed a visitor, unlike the beginning of the pandemic, but that could change.

"These people can have a visitor, it depends on the infectious rate in the community itself, and right now we are accepting visitors to patients' bedsides," Dr. Morrish said. "We want to make sure not only are our patients safe, but the visitors are safe, as well as our staff, because they need to go home to their families and feel they work in an environment that's well controlled."

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