Coronavirus: a local story

Dr. Jie Casey took one look at his 67-year-old patient and asked her if she was feeling okay. “She’s been sick for a couple of weeks,” her husband interjected. So Dr. Casey sat on the exam table and began to ask the couple questions, learning that in addition to her symptoms the couple had had direct contact with someone who had already tested positive. Casey had them mask up. “It quickly became clear that my patient was high risk for COVID,” he says.

Using a Public Health questionnaire, Casey reviewed the patient’s information with County Health Officer and KVH colleague Dr. Mark Larson. “He said that absolutely, she needs to be tested,” says Casey, who contacted KVH Hospital to order a BioFire (respiratory lab panel), and chest x-ray.

“I want you to go directly to the hospital with your masks on,” directed Casey. “They’re going to take an x-ray and a swab or two. And then you’re going to go straight home until you hear from me or Dr. Larson.” The couple agreed. Casey then demonstrated proper hand washing techniques, including use of a paper towel when turning the sink on and off. He then asked them to do the same, washing their hands appropriately before leaving the room and closing the door with their elbow.

As soon as they left, the exam room was locked down until it could be cleaned. And Casey moved on to the next patient.

“Essential medical personnel are expected to work unless they’re symptomatic,” Casey explains, emphasizing that, even if he had contracted the virus during the visit, he would not have been contagious when continuing to see patients. Saturday morning, Larson called with news that the patient test was ‘positive.’ Casey was asked to self-quarantine until more details were available. Also under quarantine, the couple are monitored daily by the Public Health Department, who has communicated with all of their direct contacts.

“I already had the week off for a CME (continuing medical education) event,” says Casey, who was tested, nixing his travel plans and now self-quarantined at home. Casey regularly reports in with KVH Quality Director Mandee Olsen, and checks his own temperature. Olsen keeps track of his vitals as part of the process.

When Casey received his test results, they were ‘negative.’ Following current public health policy, he’ll return to patient care after 14 days as a precaution.

While the coronavirus is nothing to be flippant about, healthcare workers are trained to handle these kinds of cases as part of their medical routine. “Dr. Casey did everything perfectly,” confirms Larson, who continues to keep his colleague updated by phone. “I told him he couldn’t have done a single thing better than he did.”