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Adventist Health Sonora enacts COVID-19 surge plans and joins thousands of top U.S. hospitals to encourage everyone to #MaskUp


November 20, 2020 (Sonora, Calif.) – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Adventist Health Sonora care providers have been screening and evaluating patients with COVID-19 symptoms in their cars, to reduce the potential for exposure to other patients, visitors and staff in its facilities. With Tuolumne County experiencing rapidly rising case rates and positivity rates, Adventist Health Sonora, as part of its surge plan, will be installing additional patient triage capacity in a tent near the Emergency Department entrance.

“This additional space will reduce congestion and allow us to see more patients while protecting those without COVID-19 symptoms who are visiting us for routine care or other emergencies,” explains Michelle Fuentes, Adventist Health Sonora president. “In the spring, we shut down much of our operations because we did not know what was going to happen with the pandemic. With our current surge, we have more knowledge about COVID-19 and we can take a phased approach with more informed processes.”

What to do if you suspect COVID-19

For those with mild symptoms who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19, the state testing site at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds may be an option. If an appointment is not readily available, new appointment times are added regularly. Appointments can be made online at or by calling 1-888-634-1123. Stay home and avoid contact with others.

For moderate symptoms, patients are recommended to call their primary care physician, call Indian Rock Rapid Care at (209) 536-6680, call Angels Camp Rapid Care at 209-736-9130 or call the COVID-19 advice line at (209) 536 5166. Following a patient exam, if the provider feels testing is necessary, referrals can be made to the drive-up testing site at Adventist Health Sonora. The drive-up testing site remains available, by referral only, Monday through Friday.

For more severe symptoms, patients should go to their nearest emergency room or call 911. Each hospital will have specific protocols for patients with COVID-19 symptoms. For patients arriving by car at Adventist Health Sonora, they will be screened and triaged at the entrance. A medical provider will either evaluate the patient in the triage tent or in an isolation room in the hospital, depending on the patient’s condition and hospital capacity. It is important to note that the emergency department, triage tent and car-side evaluations are not free California state testing sites. Patients will receive care from emergency department medical providers and their insurance will be billed for the visit.

“Please do not let this situation deter you from seeking care,” says Alex Heard, MD, chief medical officer at Adventist Health Sonora. “During the spring surge we witnessed people across the country delay care for emergency situations and suffer severe complications and death from often treatable conditions such as heart attack and stroke. We also saw more complications from untreated chronic conditions.”

For patients without COVID-19 symptoms

As Adventist Health Sonora sees increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, staffing may need to be adjusted. As part of the surge plan, scheduled procedures may need to be rescheduled to allow staff to care for those with critical emergency care needs. Patients will be contacted in the event their appointment or procedure needs to be rescheduled.

“We appreciate our community’s patience and understanding as we adjust our operations on a daily basis to meet current needs,” Fuentes says. “Please do your part to prevent further transmission of COVID-19. People we love in our community are falling sick and dying due to the coronavirus. Let’s all do our part and wear masks to protect each other.”

As of November 19, Tuolumne County is reporting 263 active cases, 10 people hospitalized and, sadly, eight deaths. More than 11.5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus – including an additional 1 million in just the past week – leading to nearly 250,000 deaths.

Adventist Health joins 100 of the nation’s top health care systems urging everyone to mask up

Face masks can slow the trend. Adventist Health has joined 100 of the nation’s top health care systems, representing thousands of hospitals in communities across the U.S., with an urgent plea for all Americans – mask up, because wearing a face mask is our nation’s best chance at slowing the surging COVID-19 pandemic now.

The current trends are frightening. In some areas, shortages of healthy caregivers make it difficult to handle a rapidly increasing number of patients. The next several months will be critical. Though there has been positive news about vaccine development, no one knows when those vaccines will be ready for widespread use. In the meantime, everyone must remain vigilant, take precautions and follow public health orders.

Beginning this week, a public service message will run nationally in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Additionally, hospitals and health systems across the country will continue to unite to share these messages regionally. The message reads:

“As the top nationally ranked hospitals, we know it’s tough that we all need to do our part and keep wearing masks. But, here’s what we also know: The science has not changed. Masks slow the spread of COVID-19. So, please join us as we all embrace this simple ask: Wear. Care. Share with #MaskUp. Together, wearing is caring. And together, we are saving lives.”

Recent studies have shown that face masks successfully limit spread of the COVID-19 virus by protecting the wearer against inhalation of harmful pathogens and particulates and by preventing exposure of those around the wearer. In addition to masking, the CDC suggests that everyone minimize the number of non-household contacts, maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet and limit the amount of time around others, especially while indoors and in poorly ventilated areas. Further information about masking guidelines – how to choose a mask, how to properly wear a mask – is available on the CDC website.