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UPMC Doctors Give Advice On How To Stay Healthy As Coronavirus Spreads

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UPMC Canterbury Place is a skilled nursing facility located in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville.

Due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus, UPMC is asking people not to visit the health network’s long-term care or skilled-nursing facilities if they are ill or have cold symptoms, even if these symptoms are relatively minor.

“This will help avoid accidentally spreading, not only COVID-19, but many of the common respiratory viruses that are circulating in our communities, and to our vulnerable elderly population,” said Dr. David Nace, the chief medical officer for UPMC senior communities, and president-elect for the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by coronavirus. Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable, as was seen at a Seattle-area nursing home where several residents died after becoming infected.

If a UPMC nursing home resident tests positive for coronavirus, the individual may stay in place to convalescence, depending on the person’s preferences and medical needs.

“We’ve trained our facilities staff on personal-protective equipment…gowns, gloves and masks,” he said. “I’m comfortable our staff knows what to do [to contain the virus.]”

Epidemiological data from China show children are not particularly affected by the virus when they contract it.

"Children are very good at spreading disease...they can be running around playing and yet be infected," said Dr. John Williams, the head of the division of pediatric infectious diseases, at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to show children how to cough or sneeze into their elbows, help them practice good hand washing techniques, and to keep kids at home if they’re sick.

UPMC is also developing an in-house coronavirus test, which will be based on protocol from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are not using their kits because they’re limited supply. We’re developing a parallel method,” said Dr. Alan Wells, the medical director for UPMC Clinical Laboratories.

The hospital system is able to do this under the Emergency Authorization Waiver, which allows unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved products to be used to diagnose life-threating illnesses during emergencies.

At this time, samples of any patients that might be infected are being sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s lab in Exton, Chester County. UPMC said at this time, none of its patients are positive for coronavirus, but wouldn’t reveal how many people have been tested.

All Pennsylvania who have tested positive for the virus, so far, live in the eastern part of the state.

WESA receives funding from UPMC.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.