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Health care professionals urge public to be ready for potential second wave

“The second act is coming, but what would you want to do in the second that you weren’t able to do in the first?” asked Dr. Gerald Maloney, Geisinger chief medical officer of hospital services. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen. Preparing for a second wave is prudent at this time.”

Maloney, alongside Dr. Rutul Dalal, UPMC medical director of infectious diseases, and Steve Leauber, Red Cross senior disaster program manager, are urging people to prepare by buying necessities without overbuying, maintaining social distancing and hygiene recommendations, avoiding contact with large masses of people and staying home whenever able to — especially when sick.

“Being prepared means keeping enough food, supplies and medicine for 72 hours,” Leauber said. “With COVID, we have learned a lot. A lot of people have learned about preparedness because things got shut down and we didn’t know that they were going to get shut down.”

He encourages locals to prepare before a possible second wave actually hits our area.

“A lot of people went and stocked up during the pandemic instead of before,” he said.

He added that having enough supplies of your favorite things, canned foods and shelf-stable meals, batteries, a radio, phone and laptop chargers, medicine and even a generator can be helpful in the case of being quarantined or stuck at home during a national disaster for a long period of time.

“Be prepared for it because we don’t know, and COVID showed that to us,” he said. “Don’t over buy, make sure there are things for the next person. If we don’t overbuy there will be things for the next person.”

“There is enough to go around,” Maloney added. “We can get through this together if we all cooperate.”

Maloney and Dalal agree that preventative measures like regular hand-washing and sanitizing, universal masking when not able to distance, practicing social distancing measures and not leaving the house when feeling ill, are just some of the measures that have been proven to help fight against the spread of the virus.

“We should use them (masks),” Maloney said. “If we are learning anything, it’s that we do have proof that masks and distancing are effective. It is a really important message to get out. We don’t have a cure but we do know how to prevent it, so let’s do that.”

At Geisinger, testing capabilities and telemedicine have been ramped up over the course of the virus and will continue to grow.

Geisinger has also learned how to better care for patients and how to fully monitor their personal protective equipment.

“We are making sure of our supplies and taking PPE inventory daily,” Maloney said. “We know that we are in much better shape. We know that our internal infrastructures work. We are doing the things that we need to do. We are making sure that we are as prepared as we can be.”

UPMC has taken similar approaches by maximizing their testing potential by opening up testing sites at their outpatient clinics in the surrounding areas.

“Our job across all the communities we serve is to be ready for the worst and respond to what the realities are. That means we have to have aggressive well thought through testing and surveillance programs. We need to know about hot spots before they become overwhelming,” Dalal said.

Dalal alongside his colleagues agree that the focus should remain on the most vulnerable.

“Despite more people testing positive, often younger adults, we are not seeing the same pattern of increase in severe cases,” he said. “And I believe we can keep it that way if we focus our efforts on protecting the frail elderly and immunocompromised. We don’t want any avoidable infections, but we must stay especially focused on doing the things that keep those vulnerable people from infection. This is not one-size-fits-all, we must tailor our interventions to match the risk level of who we’re addressing.”

Masking and the same precautions Maloney discussed were also urged by Dalal.

“While facemasks alone can’t prevent COVID-19, they are a key factor in prevention. If you wear a facemask, it can help prevent you from spreading the disease to others. If others wear a facemask, it can help to prevent them from spreading COVID-19 to you,” he said. “Safety is the number one priority at UPMC. To ensure safety, preventative protocols, which include controlled entrances; screening of all staff, patients, and visitors; masking of all staff, patients, and visitors; and visitor restrictions, remain in effect at our facilities.”

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