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Signage has been placed at all entrances of Saint Michael’s requesting patients and visitors with a fever and recent international travel to immediately notify healthcare staff.

NEWARK, NJ — With New Jersey reporting its first case of confirmed novel coronavirus, Saint Michael’s Medical Center has been working closely with local, state and federal public health agencies as well as its own health care professionals to prepare in the event of a suspected or confirmed case at the Newark hospital.

“Our first and primary concern is the safety of our patients, visitors, health care professionals as well as the community we serve,” said Dr. Jihad Slim, the chief of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Saint Michael’s.

“Our staff is already well trained in the use of standard, contact and airborne precautions in the treatment of patients with infectious diseases,” Dr. Slim said. “We are relying on this expertise as we prepare for the possibility of patients with suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus.”

Gov. Phil Murphy Wednesday announced the first presumptive case of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in New Jersey. The man 32-year old man from Fort Lee in Bergen County is being treated at Hackensack University Medical Center, where he has been hospitalized since March 3.

The coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2, is the cause the COVID-19 pandemic that has already resulted in at least 153 patients with the illness in 17 states.

However, the risk to the general public in the U.S. remains low, according to the state Health Department. Residents with questions about the virus are urged to call New Jersey’s hotline at (800) 222-1222.

To reduce the possibility of spreading coronavirus in the hospital, Saint Michael’s has placed signage at all entrances requesting patients and visitors with a fever and recent international travel to immediately notify healthcare staff. In addition, all patients who are brought into Saint Michael’s emergency room and clinics are now asked a series of screening questions to determine if they are at risk for carrying the virus.

Saint Michael’s has drafted a comprehensive plan that details how to handle a patient with a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus. The hospital has negative pressure rooms where patients can be isolated, preventing the spread of infection to other patients.

Patients who have symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their medical provider first. Coronavirus symptoms are similar to the flu and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

While there is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases in general, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.