As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, hospitals are having to take unprecedented steps when it comes to their response. Mercy Hospital in northwest Oklahoma City is one of them.

Health care professionals in Oklahoma said they are anticipating more cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state. While the numbers are still manageable, Mercy Hospital is taking preventative measures now rather than later.

Mercy Hospital has opened a triage area in front of the emergency room to screen patients who present symptoms consistent with the virus.

“We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario, but at this point we wanted to get out ahead of things,” said Dr. Lance Watson during a news conference Tuesday.  

Watson is the medical director for the Mercy Emergency Department. He said the triage system will help protect not only new patients but staff members and patients already being treated at the hospital.

“The goal is to further separate patients that might have coronavirus or may have been exposed to coronavirus from our general patient population before they get inside our hospital,” he said.

The hospital also built an overflow attached to the ER in the event that more space is needed in the future.    

“That’s where we will do low acuity assessments, and if higher acuity patients need to go inside, we will direct them to a separate zone for further testing,” Watson said.

Patients with chronic illnesses who are unable to travel are encouraged to use the hospitals new telemedicine services.

“We know that if these patients stay home and don’t see their doctors, they are likely to get worse and won’t show up at the emergency room department much like the one we have behind us,” said Dr. Jesse Campbell, chief administrative officer of Mercy Clinic. “We’re trying to keep those patients healthy.”

Because people are being asked to limit travel and social interaction, Mercy has also created an online risk assessment. Mercy will also set up "dedicated care areas" in five clinic locations across the metro area.

While Mercy has made the changes to prepare for an onset of new cases, the hospital still has limited testing resources. In light of this, they are requesting that people with mild symptoms to stay home and call their doctors.