Since March, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, 639 employees of Baptist Health Hardin have been quarantined.

Employee Health Manager Melissa Griffin said they currently have 44 employees quarantined.

Per the Centers for Disease Control, Griffin said being quarantined means keeping someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine is meant to help prevent the spread of a disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms.

Griffin said employees are quarantined after exposure — either in the hospital or outside the hospital. She said exposures could happen at the hospital if an employee is exposed to a COVID-19 positive patient or exposed to a “rule out” patient, or one who might have symptoms but has not received a positive test result.

Before the pandemic was even labeled or widespread in Kentucky, Griffin said the hospital monitored other states and watched how COVID-19 affected other health care systems.

As a precaution, they asked staff to self-quarantine if they traveled to other high-risk areas. She said many Baptist Health Hardin staff canceled vacations so they would not have to quarantine upon returning.

“As one of the county’s largest employers, with almost 3,000 team members traveling and carrying on daily activities, we, like almost every other business, have staff quarantined, many voluntarily,” she said.

“For example, we have an employee with a college student at home who was possibly exposed to COVID-19. Our employee chose to quarantine out of caution,” Griffin said.

Griffin said they have only had about 60 employees quarantine for testing positive to COVID-19.

Per CDC guidelines, staff exposed to the virus are able to return to work after they are symptom-free. Though the test-based strategy is no longer a recommendation from the CDC to return staff to work, Griffin said the hospital is taking extra precautionary measures and requiring two negative test results.

Griffin said requiring quarantine does affect the number of staff able to work, “but caution is the best prevention.” She noted they have created alternative staffing plans and response activities.

Quarantined employees also face obstacles while waiting to return to work. Griffin said they are instructed to isolate from others during the quarantine. Others may also experience financial strain while being off work for an extended period.

Griffin said staff can apply for assistance from the Hardin Memorial Health Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. The hospital also offers an Employee Assistance Program that offers counseling and support when needed.

“Everyone needs to take responsibility to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Follow the CDC guidelines and wear a mask, practice social distancing (of) 6 feet or more, avoid large crowds specifically indoor events and frequently wash your hands,” Griffin said.

As flu season approaches, Griffin also encouraged everyone to get a flu shot.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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