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WVU Medicine opens respiratory clinics, offers video visits

By Staff | Apr 3, 2020

Dr. Matthew Simmons, of WVU Medicine Infectious Diseases, discusses methods of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic on March 17. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — WVU Medicine announced the opening of its two respiratory clinics in the Eastern Panhandle, at Jefferson Medical Center and Berkeley Medical Center, on Friday morning.

According to WVU Medicine Communications Specialist Chelsie Davis, the clinics were opened in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Eastern Panhandle. The clinics are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s been amazing to watch the effort and commitment from our staff and clinicians in getting the clinics up and running,” David Baltierra, M.D., family medicine medical director for University Healthcare Physicians, said. “We are here to take care of patients with respiratory symptoms so that our community can feel safe and other medical offices can remain open to care for everyone else with medical needs.”

The clinic at Jefferson Medical Center was set up at WVU Medicine Surgery 201 East Fifth Avenue, and the Berkeley Medical Center clinic was set up at Medical Office Building 1, 2010 Doctor Oates Drive in Ranson.

According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Matthew Simmons, community members experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should visit one of these clinics if they require medical assistance. However, if they are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness but are unsure if medical assistance is necessary, they should contact their medical provider or the WVU Medicine East COVID-19 Triage Hotline at 304-596-2890 first.

“COVID-19 is not that different from an influenza-like illness,” Simmons said. “Eighty-three percent of people have a fever-like presentation, 82 percent will have a cough and 31 percent will have shortness of breath, according to one of the more recent studies. 90 percent will have more than one of the symptoms. This virus looks like every kind of respiratory virus out there.”

However, COVID-19 spreads twice as fast as influenza, which is why it is essential for everyone to practice social distancing.

“For every person who gets it, they’ll infect two to two-and-a-half people. This means that the virus has the potential to grow exponentially, as more people get it. That’s why we’re concerned about things like social distancing, and making sure that people that have it stay away from people,” Simmons said.

For community members who need to talk with their WVU Medicine healthcare providers while practicing social distancing, video visit options via a smartphone or webcam-equipped computer are now available. Video visits are held in place of a traditional doctor’s appointment during regular clinic hours, and can be scheduled by calling a WVU Medicine medical practitioner’s office.

“We are offering video visits for all patients, new as well as established patients. In fact, we did 120 video visits here in the Eastern Panhandle on Monday, compared to 50 total last week,” said WVU Medicine East Vice President of Marketing and Developing Teresa McCabe. “So, the number of patients requesting video visits are increasing.”