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COVID-19 case, attributed on VA website to Mountain Home, actually identified in Knoxville outpatient clinic

Johnson City Press • Updated Mar 23, 2020 at 4:41 PM

A veteran tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 20 at the William C. Tallent VA Outpatient Clinic in Knoxville, the Mountain Home VA Medical Center said in a press release on Monday.

“The risk of transmission to other patients and staff remains low, as the facility was able to discharge the veteran home based on clinical status with instructions for home isolation and self-care in accordance Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines,” the center said in a release.

A list updated Monday on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website showed 204 positive cases of COVID-19 in veterans, including one attributed to Mountain Home. A spokesperson for the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center said the patient is in Knoxville from the outpatient clinic there and not in Johnson City. The website says that patient is in quarantine at home.

The VA said in the release that it is screening veterans and staff who present with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath who meet CDC criteria for evaluation of COVID-19 infection.

The VA said veterans and staff are encouraged to take everyday preventive actions to avoid being exposed to the virus. These include:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if you are sick or becoming sick.
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with symptoms, call the VA before going to the facility.

The following is a statement from the VA regarding protective measures:

What is VA doing?

VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans in the face of this emerging health risk. We are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to monitor the outbreak of the virus.

VA has administered over 1,524 COVID-19 tests nationwide while taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

These measures include outreach to Veterans and staff, clinical screening at VA health care facilities, and protective procedures for patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units.

What should Veterans do?

Any Veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should immediately contact their local VA facility. VA urges Veterans to call before visiting – you can find contact information for your closest VA facility.

Alternatively, Veterans can sign into My HealtheVet to send a secure message to VA or use telehealth options to explain their condition and receive a prompt diagnosis.

Upon arriving at VA, all patients will be screened for flu-like symptoms before they enter in order to protect other patients and staff. A VA health care professional will assist you with next steps once this screening process is complete.

At this time, VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to please postpone their visits to VA facilities.

How to protect yourself

  • Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the COVID-19 infection and no medication to treat it. CDC believes symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Avoid exposure and avoid exposing others to an infection with these simple steps.
  • Learn to use VA Video Connect through the VA mobile app store or by contacting your VA care team, before any urgent problems arise.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to mark the time is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice while scrubbing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick or becoming sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (not your hands) and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Getting a flu shot is recommended.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs website listed one case of COVID-19 at Mountain Home VA Medical Center. It has been updated to reflect new information from a James H. Quillen VA spokesperson, who said the case was identified at their outpatient center in Knoxville.

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