South County Health prepares for coronavirus

Published 03/03/2020

Along with other health organizations around the world, South County Health is monitoring and planning its response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to ensure patients, staff, and visitors are safe.

Since late December, there have been more than 90,000 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide with more than 3,000 fatalities. The vast majority of these cases and fatalities have been in China.

South County Health's response

At South County Health, we have assembled a team including physicians, nurses, infection prevention experts, emergency management specialists and others to work with our leadership to monitor the situation and develop an appropriate response.

A coordinated response is important in situations like this, which is why we are working closely with the Governor’s office and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

The state has set up a specific page on its website with the latest information on the coronavirus.

Visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website >>

Visit the Centers for Disease Control website >>

Read the CDC coronavirus fact sheet >>

Precautions you can take

The following are general safety suggestions and information from the RIDOH:

  1. Although the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is still low and there have been no confirmed cases in our state, everyone can contribute to our preparedness work by taking simple, everyday steps to limit the spread of viruses. Those steps include washing your hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you are sick.

  2. Some of the same steps that can help prevent the spread of coronaviruses can also help prevent the spread of other viruses, such as the flu and norovirus. While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island, a lot of flu is circulating here right now. The preparations to protect yourself and your loved ones against coronavirus are the same steps people should already be taking to protect against the flu. This flu season in Rhode Island there have been more than 650 flu-related hospitalizations and 11 flu-related deaths.

All Rhode Islanders should:

  • Get a flu shot. Flu shots are your best protection against the flu, and they help protect the friends and loved ones around you who may be more at risk of getting very sick because of the flu, such as pregnant women, infants, and older adults. Flu vaccine can also help people avoid flu-related hospitalizations. This allows hospitals to focus on patients with more severe illnesses.

  • Wash your hands regularly. When washing your hands, use warm water and soap, lathering for 30-60 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands.
    Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick.

  • Stay home from work or school when you are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.

  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.

  • Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. Face masks are generally used to prevent sick people from getting other people sick.


Business owners can also take a number of steps to create healthy workplaces. They should:

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay out of work until they are free of: fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.

Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible.
If possible, maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.

Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees. Employers can do this by displaying posters that encourage cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene.

Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.

As this situation progresses, we will continue to update the community with the latest health information.