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In effort to curb COVID-19, hospital creates isolation unit for respiratory patients

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Laura Florez-McCusker

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VISALIA – A Visalia hospital is working around the clock to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a number of ways including isolating patients with respiratory symptoms inside and outside of its facility,

On Friday, Kaweah Health began using one of two tents outside to isolate patients coming to the hospital’s Emergency Department with respiratory symptoms. Also this week, Kaweah Health established a unit inside the hospital to isolate patients with respiratory symptoms while continuing its work to open up two brand new floors of the hospital, one of which could become a unit for patients with COVID-19.

“The virus is spreading rapidly. It’s forced our team to be innovative and creative so that we can protect the health and safety of our patients, our staff, our doctors, and our community, by preventing the spread of this virus,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our top priority right now is to protect our patients, our visitors, their families, our doctors, our nurses, and the entire community.”

Kaweah Health is working to get approval from the State of California to open up two new floors of its Acequia Wing, one of which could be used as a dedicated floor for COVID-19 patients. The fifth floor is set to be a 24-bed intermediate intensive care unit, while the sixth floor will become a 23-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). “We are working to move that along as much as possible. We are a very busy hospital and in general we are always in need of beds,” Herbst said. “We have to plan for how to deal with COVID-19, which is evolving by the day.”

Outside of the hospital, Kaweah Health began using its new tent system Friday to screen patients prior to allowing them into the facility. Patients with respiratory symptoms are now given a face mask and isolated in a tent, sitting six feet apart. From there individuals who meet criteria for COVID-19 testing enter a third, smaller tent where a specimen is collected from them, a nasal swab, and sent to the Tulare County Public Lab for testing. Patients then drive home to self-isolate until they get their results from the County. Testing itself is not done at Kaweah Health, but specimens are sent to the Tulare County Public Health Laboratory, which conducts testing to determine whether an individual is positive for COVID-19.

Additionally, Friday, Kaweah Health put final touches on a program that will allow people who have symptoms of COVID-19 to make a call, get screened by a provider by phone and get tested without ever having to get out of their car.

Due to COVID-19, Kaweah Health has a no-visitor policy in place. Exceptions are made for:

  • End of Life patients
  • Labor & Delivery/NICU/Pediatric patients
  • Dementia/developmentally delayed patients

If an exception is made for a visitor (must be the same visitor throughout the patient’s stay), they must pass a temperature and respiratory infection screening. Family and loved ones looking for patients can call 559-624-2000 for patient updates.

Kaweah Health will continue to share COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at, via media statements, and on its social media accounts.

Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency advises if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, please call your primary physician or 2-1-1 rather than walking into a medical office or hospital. Your physician will connect with Tulare County Public Health to determine if testing is appropriate.