Dr. Michael Roshon

Dr. Michael Roshon, emergency room doctor and medical chief of staff for St. Francis Health Services, talks about the COVID-19 virus and how his staff is preparing to handle patients Friday, March 20, 2020, at the St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs. Roshon said if the virus was a marathon, we have only begun to put on our shoes and should prepare for the worst to come. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado Springs still has time to keep hospitals from being overrun with sick coronavirus patients unable to get the lifesaving care they need like in Italy, medical experts said.

“We have examples of countries and cities that have done it," Dr. Michael Roshon,chief of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services' medical staff, said Friday in an emergency department so far spared the panic, frenzy and exhaustion many are predicting. "They’ve stopped the spread of this virus.

“We know exactly what to do, and we can do it. We just need people to pay attention.”

What a 'shelter in place' order in Colorado might look like

Paying attention means sticking to the oft-repeated instructions: staying home as much as possible, maintaining six feet of space from others when out and thorough hand washing. If those practices are ignored, it’s possible local health care providers will have to make the difficult choices being made elsewhere, like who is put on a respirator and who isn’t.

“Any system can be overwhelmed,” Roshon said. “If this goes bad like it did in Italy or like it did in parts of China or even Washington state, we will run out of those supplies. I guarantee we will run out.

"Now is the time to fix that. Now is the time to stop the spread, so that we don’t overwhelm the health care system, because there are a limited number of supplies.”

Friday, doctors and nurses are working regular shifts in scrubs, not hazmat suits, and following plans to limit use of the hospital’s resources and supplies.

“We’re trying our best to not go crazy and not have people spending all of their time fretting about this, because we know if we don’t do a good job of getting this shut down, we’re going to be in that situation,” Roshon said.

Roshon added that the hospital is only testing patients for COVID-19 if they need to be admitted to the hospital. Those who are exhibiting symptoms, but do not need immediate attention or have underlying health issues, are asked to stay home.

The doctor added that there are a few falsehoods he’s hoping to dispel. One, is that coronavirus is no worse than the flu even though the new virus has a higher mortality rate and there’s no immunity through a vaccine or previously having the flu.

“We’re all really sick of hearing that,” Andy Sinclair, communications advisor for Penrose-St. Francis, added.

The opposite also isn't true.

“The other misconception is this is the end, and we’re all going to die, everything is terrible,” Roshon said. “That’s really not true. We know exactly how to prevent the spread.”

On average, Roshon said, one coronavirus patient spreads the disease to between two and three other people, but a situation on a cruise ship, where social distancing is near impossible, led to one person infecting 18 others.

“If we act more like a cruise ship, we’re not going to be able to control this. If we can get it from 2½ down to less than one, then this whole thing will stop,” Roshon said.

“We should not hope for a magic solution. Everybody should do their part, and that is the solution.”

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