Mammoth offers new nurse hotline, new Covid-19 tests

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By Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

 

Feeling confused about whether you might have Covid-19 or might have been exposed to it, but don’t want to have to go to the hospital just to talk to someone? 

Now, Mammoth and Mono County are offering a new, free nurse hotline in both English and Spanish that is operating seven days a week and is staffed by local nurses. 

Want a test that doesn’t make the client wait for a week or more? That too is now available locally. 

First, the new nurses’ hotline. 

The new hotline is connected to a recently-added Mono County-wide 211 phone system, which operates something like a 911 call, but is typically used in many states and localities to access other services, such as social services. During this Covid-19 emergency, the 211 function is also being used to host the nurse hotline, officials said, where it now provides free, bi-lingual and immediate access to local, public health nurses. 

“If someone calls the 211 number, they can be routed to us if they are either wanting info, or they have symptoms and they want to know what to do,” said Jody Martin, BSN, RN, PHN, Mono County’s Nurse Care Coordinator for the new "211 Nurse Line." 

She said a big reason for the hotline is to try to help residents find out if they need a Covid-19 test over the phone, instead of forcing them to come to the hospital or a medical clinic for initial assessment.

“The 211 hotline is the best gateway locally to being tested,” she said. “People can, of course, come directly to the hospital, but it is not ideal. It is better not to just walk in.” 

Calling 211 as a first step if someone thinks they might have Covid-19 or might have been exposed to it, cuts down on resident’s exposure to the virus, which is still circulating within the county, she said.

Calling 211 first also helps to protect local health care workers from a higher risk of exposure to the virus, since the clinic or hospital will have time to better prepare for a possibly infected patient if they know the patient is coming in advance. 

A call to the local 211 number also allows nurses to gather other information about possible patients including the current situation at their home: answering questions such as do they have enough disinfectant products; do they have masks; do they even have a home – so that nurses can better help people, she said. 

“Some people are living in their cars or vans,” she said.

The 211 phone system can also access social services and so nurses who are talking to possible patients or clients can also help refer them to other services, if needed, she said. 

That said, the main purpose of the nurses’ hotline is to handle Covid-19 related issues, she said. 

“With the 211 system... we can gather information on all their symptoms over the phone,” she said. “We can ask them about their contacts, about people they might have been in con tact with that might have Covid-19. If they don’t think they have been, but still have symptoms, we can move forward on referring them for a test and/or talk to them about self-isolating. 

“After this, we make the appropriate referrals,” she said. “It might be we refer them to Mammoth Hospital for testing (see below for more info on brand-new testing options at Mammoth Hospital). If they are in North County, we might send them to Toiyabe (Indian Health Project) clinic in Coleville,” she said. 

After the initial call(s), she said, she and the rest of the staff are working on establishing a followup protocol, so people are cared for after they call in. 

“We are just getting this up and running so that we can call people back within 24 hours, and find out what is happening with them,” she said. “We are also following up with testing results,” she said. “Also, we will soon be starting a field assessment team so that a nurse or paramedic can go out and test people in their homes, and possibly, do a physical assessment of the home.” 

Speaking of tests, as the Times was getting ready to go to press, some brand-new information on new testing options at Mammoth Hospital came in, including the fact there are now rapid return, in-house tests, where results are ready within an hour. 

“There are two primary types of tests for COVID-19 – a nasal swab test, and a blood test,” said Dr. Thomas Boo, the county’s Public Health Officer. “The Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR test, looks for current, active COVID-19 infection. The swab is inserted into the nose and is tested in a lab for the genetic material of the virus. Rapid in-house nasal swab testing is currently available at Mammoth Hospital for individuals specifically referred for testing from the 211 Nurse Hotline. Results are obtained in approximately one hour. It also may be available through Toiyabe Indian Health Project (Coleville/Walker and Bishop clinics) and at Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop. 

“These blood tests, also known as serological tests, look for the antibodies made by our immune system when we have been exposed to the virus," he said. "Results from these tests can help identify who has been infected and developed antibodies that may protect from future infection as well as identify those still at risk. Testing for antibodies that persons have developed in response to infection is still very controversial, with few tests approved by the FDA for widespread use. As a result, Mammoth Hospital does not recommend that individuals seek antibody testing at this time.” 

Also note, Boo said,  if a person has symptoms that could be COVID-19 but receives a negative test result, that person should be treated as if the test was positive. This means isolation from others for at least 10 days, along with three days in a row with no fever, AND all other symptoms are gone. 

For additional technical information from Dr. Craig Burrows, Chief Medical Officer at Mammoth Hospital regarding antibody testing, visit https://coronavirus. monocounty.ca.gov/ pages/faq. 

                                                                                                                     FOR MORE INFO ON LOCAL COVID-RELATED ISSUES
 
WHAT ARE THE NEW, UPDATED SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19? 

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – rang- ing from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

• Fever and chills
• Repeated shaking with chills
• Muscle pain
• Headache
• Sore throat
• New loss of taste or smell

In addition, if you have any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:

• Trouble breathing

• Newly noticed mental confusion or an inability to be alert 

• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest 

• Bluish lips or face

 

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT COVID-19 LOCAL RESOURCES: 

• Covid-19 information website: MonoHealth.com/Coronavirus. In Spanish: https://monohealth.com/coronavirus-es 

• Call: 211 (English & Spanish) 

• Email COVID19Help@mono.ca.gov Facebook.com/MonoHealthDepart- ment 

• Instagram.com/MonoCountyHealthDepartment

• Twitter.com/CountyMono

• Town of Mammoth Lakes Short-Term Rental Hotline: 760-965-3670 or 

TOT@townofmammothlakes.ca.gov

• Mono County COVID-19 Violations: covid19violations@mono.ca.gov. • Emergency Operations Center: 760-932-5650

• Mono County You Tube channel 

 

 

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