Banner Health prepares for potential COVID-19 surge with flu season
Free flu shots offered at Fallon, Fernley locations through November
With the flu season just around the corner, Banner Health is preparing for a possible “twindemic” as it will coincide with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While Banner Health is currently discussing plans regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine distribution process, spokesperson David Lozano said the Fallon community has done well controlling the spread of the disease but cautioned that the current safety measures should still be carried to prevent the flu season combining with a COVID-19 surge.
“We have seen that masking, social distancing, hand-washing and other safety measures have worked to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Lozano said. “That is why we are opposed to any relaxing or rescinding of masking mandates. We are very concerned, particularly with flu season upon us, that without continued masking we are in danger of having a harsh flu season combined with a COVID surge.”
Rob Carnahan, chief executive officer of Banner Churchill Community Hospital, said they have a detailed “surge” plan in place that will help the hospital in the event of going over capacity.
“This plan includes alternate care sites as well as resources for additional health care workers,” he said. “We have a plan as well for ‘upskilling’ our clinical staff to work in teams to support clinical units that may have additional volume. We also have our health care providers in our clinic that are ready to help and can be allocated to different parts of the hospital as well to cover any specific surge.”
Lozano said during the COVID-19 peak earlier this year, elective surgeries and non-life-threatening procedures were on hold. This allowed for Banner Health to reallocate sources where it was needed most, which prevented the hospital from having to implement furloughs. Banner Health, though, had to implement a short-term furlough program and offered a voluntary unpaid sabbatical program, both of which are no longer in effect.
“Our priority was to redeploy Banner talent where it was needed most, and we redeployed more than 1,500 team members to support COVID-19-critical needs throughout the organization,” Lozano added.
Carnahan said that the inpatient volumes have almost returned to normal.
“Banner Churchill is a safe place to receive care and we are seeing the community use our hospital more now, after initially limiting visits with the start of the pandemic,” Carnahan said.
Overall, he’s been pleased with the community’s response to the pandemic, which shows in the data. As of Monday, the county’s cumulative positive rate sat at 2.9% and has had 173 total cases and four deaths. With a population of 25,876, the rate is the lowest of any county in the state with at least 100 cases.
“I’m happy to see that overall numbers of positive COVID cases have decreased in Churchill County compared to other counties in Nevada and compared to other states,” Carnahan said. “I feel our community is responding in a positive manner to help prevent spread and we certainly value this commitment.”
One of the steps that the community can do to help prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed is getting the flu shot.
Lozano said they’re encouraging the Banner staff to get their flu shot as soon as possible with a deadline of early November, which is earlier than normal. In addition to the staff, Banner Health is asking for the public to do the same.
“Masking and social distancing, frequent hand hygiene/hand washing, coupled with the flu shot, will help us to hopefully have a milder flu season, but everyone must do their part,” Lozano added.
Fortunately for the community, Banner Churchill and Banner Clinic in Fernley are offering free flu shots. On the Banner Churchill campus, Carnahan said the public can get their flu shot via walk-up curbside near the main entrance on Oct. 15, 22 and 29, and Nov. 5 from 5-8 p.m. The Fernley clinic is offering free flu shots until Oct. 27 from 4-6 p.m.