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45 Norton Healthcare employees test positive for COVID-19, 282 furloughed

Cox said Norton has treated 127 patients with coronavirus, 34 are in inpatient care.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Norton Healthcare confirmed Monday morning 45 of its employees had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. One of those employee is hospitalized.

Norton Healthcare President and CEO Russ Cox and System Chief Medical Office Steven Hester did not identify where these employees specifically worked but said they were throughout the healthcare system. They also said the employees were both clinical and non-clinical workers.

According to Cox, Norton has had 127 patients test positive for COVID-19, with 34 of those patients receiving inpatient care. The 45 employees that have tested positive are also part of the 127 total patients, but healthcare leaders said it is very aggressive with testing its employees while testing for the general public is still limited, leading to a large percentage of these patients being employees.

"We aren't broadly testing the community," Hester said. "And so I think those numbers are in there but they don't represent what we would see in a community typically if we were testing a lot of outpatients."

Testing has continued to be a problem throughout the country. Norton Healthcare said it has tested 1,715 people for the coronavirus, including 250 employees, but is still waiting on the results of 754 of those tests.

"These are not tests that are done within a hospital," Cox said. "They're not an immediate response test. They have to be sent to labs and those labs, as you can expect, have been overrun for the past two weeks."

Cox said there are added measures for employees to protect them and their colleagues and patients from COVID-19. Employees will have their temperatures taken before starting their shifts and the hospital is encouraging employees to use an app that helps survey them for any possible symptoms that may be overlooked.

"It requires them to ask themselves how they're feeling," Cox said. "If they're showing symptoms, a screen pops up with a number for them to call the central command center where employee health clinical people can have that discussion with them."

The healthcare system initiated a universal mask policy Sunday, requiring all clinical staff to wear protective masks.

"We're seeing more and more asymptomatic patients come through the hospital for other conditions, but the concern is they may very well be sharing the virus," Hester said.

"Caregivers are very unique individuals," Cox said. "They work very hard at caring for other people and sometimes are so busy and so involved in doing that that they don't necessarily look at themselves."

Cox said 282 employees have also been furloughed. He said these are employees who have shown symptoms but are not positive cases. He said more than 50 employees have been able to return to work. These employees are still being paid, according to Cox.

Cox also detailed some of Norton Healthcare's numbers when it comes to preparing for an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Specifically, Cox said Norton Healthcare has 1,174 acute care beds, which includes 163 ICU beds. He said if needed, the hospital could convert some medical surgery beds to ICU beds.

The healthcare system also has 222 ventilators right now, with about 80 of them in use. The hospital can also convert some anesthesia machines into ventilators if the need arises, according to Cox, which would bring the total to 356.

UofL Health said to date, it has tested 599 people for COVID-19 and has received 13 positive results. Five of those patients are in a UofL Health facility, and 35 patients in a UofL Health facility are under evaluation for COVID-19.

UofL Health has also tested 87 of their staff for COVID-19 with six testing positive.

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