In late February, federal health officials expressed concern about the new coronavirus spreading in communities, warning normal activities and routines could be disrupted.
That prediction has come true, albeit on a relatively small scale so far in Wisconsin. While the disease caused by the new virus, COVID-19, is not widespread in Wisconsin at this time, concern about containing it are prompting changes at doctor and dental offices.
At Artisan Dental in Madison, patients with appointments are being asked to reschedule if they have traveled recently to a country designated under a level three advisory because coronavirus is widespread. This includes China, Iran, South Korea, Italy. The dental office is also asking anyone who has been in contact with such a traveler to reschedule.
So far that hasn’t happened. However people are rescheduling because they’re sick from the cold or flu.
"Everybody’s being really good about being considerate and isolating themselves if they’re not feeling well," said Rochelle Guastella, director of business development for Artisan Dental.
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Hospitals and doctor offices are also taking measures to try to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease, which has sickened three so far in the state. One person from Dane County has recovered and is no longer in isolation.
On Wednesday, UW Health changed its visitor policy along with releasing guidelines on events.
"We know with COVID-19 that many people who are infected are completely asymtomatic," said Dr. Jeffrey Pothoff, chief quality and safety officer for UW Health. "It's difficult for us to know at this point whether or not it's in the community or not. But with more cases cropping up, we start to get more concerned."
As part of its COVID-19 preparedness efforts, the health systems will allow only one visitor per patient at a time at two Madison-area hospitals, University Hospital and UW Health at the American Center. Exceptions will be made for end-of-life situations, according to a news release. A third UW hospital, American Family Children’s Hospital, is allowing two visitors at a time but restricting patient siblings of all ages and not allowing any family members in operating rooms.
Additionally, UW therapy and exercise classes for older patients are suspended until further notice along with volunteer services.