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story.lead_photo.caption Liv Paggiarino/News Tribune A woman walks through the doors and past a sign listing possible symptoms of coronavirus at Jefferson City Medical Group on Tuesday. Other signs cautioned limited entry through specific parts of the medical facility, such as the cancer center and the women’s and children’s center.

Cole County's health care providers are preparing, in case the novel coronavirus turns out to be as bad as some expect.

At Jefferson City Medical Group, physician leaders and clinical directors meet daily to prepare for the widespread outbreak of COVID-19, said Jamie Patterson, the health care provider's vice president of marketing and business development.

For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

On Tuesday, it closed several entrances to provide more safety. And, it is allowing only oncology or infusion patients (and caregivers) to enter and exit through the Cancer Center. Anyone entering through the door at the Stadium Boulevard campus will have their temperature taken and be asked about respiratory illness or any symptoms. Anyone showing symptoms will be given a mask to wear and be escorted to express care.

"Our foremost focus continues to be the health and safety of our community, patients and staff," she told the News Tribune in an email. "We are following federal and state guidelines and carefully managing potentially symptomatic or at-risk patients as proactively as possible."

Coronaviruses make up a large family of viruses. Some cause illnesses in people, while others infect only animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have happened for the virus that causes COVID-19. The current virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early infections were widely linked to live animal markets, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.

Data indicate COVID-19 poses a higher risk of death for older patients and for those with compromised immune systems. Younger people are generally not affected as severely unless they have an underlying health issue.

To avoid confusion, JCMG has several resources available.

"We have guidelines published on our website (jcmg.org) and ask patients with fever and respiratory illness symptoms to call 573-635-JCMG and press 'Option 1' prior to coming in."

The News Tribune reported Tuesday that St. Mary's Hospital is setting up a COVID-19 testing site.

Capital Region Medical Center is implementing a systematic response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, said Lindsay Huhman, CRMC director of marketing.

The hospital has test kits but is screening patients via phone and in person before administering the test.

"For those in the community who feel they may be at risk and would like to be tested, we are asking they call their provider prior to arrival for screening," Huhman said. "If they do not have a provider, they should call the place they would present prior to arriving, whether it's the Emergency Department or Urgent Care."

In the case of an influx of people wishing to be tested for COVID-19, the hospital has plans in place to use an adjacent structure near its emergency department for that purpose.

"We are following screening and testing guidelines established by the CDC and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services," Huhman said.

In efforts to help contain the pandemic, CRMC has made changes to its visitation policy. It asks that visitors limit themselves to one per patient, be older than 18, and be free from fever and/or illness. The hospital asks patients seen in its clinic system only have one person accompanying them. For example, Huhman said, for pediatrics, please only have one parent or guardian present at the appointment.

"It's imperative to practice social distancing and proper hand hygiene protocols," she said. "As a community, we can work together to stay healthy."

Patients who have symptoms and relevant travel history who are present in any of JCMG's clinics without calling first will be placed in a triage protocol, Patterson said.

"Like other health care organizations across the country, we have a very limited quantity of viral sensitive test kits at this time," she said. "For that reason, we are following DHSS guidelines for testing very strictly. Although we do not anticipate opening a public COVID-19 testing site here at JCMG, we are collaborating with local organizations and state officials to help expand testing for our community."

The News Tribune is offering free online access to coronavirus coverage.

The CDC recommends several common-sense ways to lower the chance of coming down with COVID-19.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Stay home when you're sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

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