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Roswell Park issues message regarding COVID-19 & International travel

Roswell working to protect patients & families
Roswell Park asks staff not to travel international to protect against COVID-19
Posted at 11:49 AM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 19:56:26-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Although there are no reported cases of the coronavirus in Erie County or New York State, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is preparing for any potential cases.

The president of Roswell Park has issued a message to employees regarding protection from COVID-19.

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Computer at Roswell with CDC website on virurs information.

Roswell president and CEO Candace Johnson states in the emailed message that, “we need to come together to limit any impact of this serious threat here at Roswell Park and in our community.”

COVID-19 has spread globally, but according to state health officials, there has been no confirmed cases in New York State.

But as it continues to threaten healthcare centers, Roswell says it has been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and state and local health departments. Roswell stating it is working, “to put the best infection control measures in place”.

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Dr. Katherine Mullin, director, Roswell's Infection Control.

"To make sure that we limit any risk to both other patients and this institution, our employees and then the local community - spread beyond those patients," explained Dr. Katherine Mullin, director, Roswell's Infection Control.

Roswell is calling on its own employees and volunteers to be “proactive” in protecting patients and their families because many have compromised immune systems.

Roswell is asking that “all international work-related travel is prohibited” for employees, volunteers and students.

"Even if we do see cases, that we’re able to contain them as much as possible, to limit again, that risk of spread to other patients and into the community," stated Dr. Mullin. "As things are emerging and things have gotten beyond that localize region, we want to make sure we protect our employees and also our patients here."

“We advise against any international travel outside North American for any purpose,” wrote Johnson.

Roswell is also requiring those who already traveled outside the continental U.S., within the past three weeks, to notify their supervisor at the hospital immediately. For those who are ill or traveled to a country recently experiencing an outbreak, the Infection Prevention and Control Team at Roswell will determine their risk for COVID-19 and other illnesses.

Roswell is also asking employees if they are sick, with any cold-life symptoms, to stay at home. This would include volunteers and students at Roswell.

It's important to note, there are a variety of corona viruses. but COVID-19 can be 'life-threatening' for some people.

"For some people, it’s presenting like the common cold and for other people, it’s causing them to be very, very, ill, needing ICU critical care level," Dr. Mullins remarked.

Erie county health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says as the virus continues to spread globally - cutting international travel is a good decision.

"People should think twice about maybe postponing their travel, but it's really up to the individual," replied Dr. Burstein.

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Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein & County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Burstein appeared with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz Thursday at the Rath Building in a joint news conference to discuss preparations the county is making in the event of an outbreak.

Poloncarz said he wants to remind the public there are no reported cases in the county. Poloncarz warning the public not to believe fake social media about the illness.

"If you are seeing or reading things on social media that says that there are cases here - it is a lie," Poloncarz declared. "There has been no case. I don’t want the public to thing there is a case that we’re hiding, our goal is to protect the public health's not to hide the truth from the public."

Dr. Burstein said the county health department is working with community partners, such as schools and hospitals to prepare if there were to be any type of potential outbreak.

The health commissioner said it is important to continue to be aware of the spread of viruses, reminding everyone to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds, if you are sick, cover your cough or sneezing and practice social distancing if you are sick or you suspect some one is ill.

Burstein said you can also take steps at home and at work by cleaning up surfaces where there is a great deal of contact.

"You want to wash up all surfaces, table and counter tops," said Burstein. "You want to wash off all surfaces, tabletops and counter tops - make sure you don’t share like utensils or straws or cups."

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called on state lawmakers to provider $40 million in emergency funding to help prevent the spread or possible outbreak.

7 Eyewitness News also checked in with other area companies that are involved with global travel and working overseas in areas directly effected by the outbreak. We heard back from Rich Products in Buffalo. The company has direct work in Asia and China.

Dwight Gram, vice president, corporate communications, said they have had "no reported cases of infection across" their organization.

"Our teams in China and across Asia have done an outstanding job in response to this difficult situation. They have the appropriate plans in place for their respective organizations to protect the health and safety of our associates. They continue to closely coordinate with government officials and obtain advice from professional consultants and other companies to ensure we understand and are following all health-related best practices. What’s most important through all of this is that all our associates and their families across the region remain safe," Gram stated.

Rich Products has also restricted "all travel to Asia and also all travel within China" for all of the company's China-based associates.

"All other international travel is on an 'essential basis only' and must be approved by an associate’s respective leader. We also are encouraging our associates to leverage the recent investments we’ve made in Microsoft Teams and other digital communication tools to connect and collaborate with their fellow associates, customers and external business partners in lieu of travel. We are continuing to review our temporary travel policies and will make additional changes as appropriate," Gram wrote.