Columbia Memorial Health remains on heightened alert as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, and we are prepared to respond for the community.

The following answers some frequently asked questions about the virus and CMH’s approach to containing and treating it.

If you aren’t feeling well, the best advice is to stay home and rest. Drink plenty of clear fluids. If symptoms persist or worsen, call your primary care physician or other health care provider.

What should I do if I think I’ve contracted the COVID-19 VIRUS?

CMH has Established a hotline for persons concerned that they may have contracted the virus. If you have a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, or if you have reason to believe you have been exposed to the coronavirus, please call the hotline at 518-828-8249. A trained staff member will provide guidance concerning testing, care and protective protocols. To best protect you, our patients, our staff and the public, it is very important that you call this number before seeking testing or care for a coronavirus related concern. As always, if there is an emergent need for care of any kind, come directly to the ER without delay.

What is COVID-19?

While coronaviruses are common throughout the world, scientists have identified seven different types of the virus, from the common cold to more severe diseases such as coronavirus. This novel coronavirus is called COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that primarily spreads when coming in contact with the respiratory droplets — coughing, sneezing, saliva or nasal discharge — from an infected person.

To minimize spreading the virus, it is critical to practice good hygiene, washing your hands regularly with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water. Also, make sure to cough or sneeze into your flexed elbow and immediately discard tissues after being used.

What are the symptoms?

People with COVID-19 usually have a fever and respiratory symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, sore throat and runny nose. Some patients have gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea) as well.  In most patients the symptoms are not severe enough to warrant hospitalization, but in some patients (particularly those over the age of 60 or with weakened immune systems), symptoms can progress to pneumonia and in the most severe cases even death.

Is there a treatment for COVID-19?

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. However, many of the symptoms can be treated based on your clinical condition. Supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.

If I have flu-like symptoms, what should I do?

If you aren’t feeling well, the best advice is to stay home and rest. Drink plenty of clear fluids. If symptoms persist or worsen, call your primary care physician or other health care provider.  They will ask you a series of questions to determine the level of risk that the illness you are experiencing is related to COVID-19 as opposed to other, more usual viruses such as the flu or common cold.

Consider urgent care centers if necessary, but avoid going to emergency departments—which are historically busy this time of year—unless your symptoms worsen and you have no other options to receive care.  It is important to call ahead before you arrive at an urgent care center, emergency room or doctor’s office so they know to take the appropriate precautions to protect other patients and the staff.

How is COVID-19 tested?

CMH tests individuals who are symptomatic and whose travel history suggests they may have been exposed. Testing is currently coordinated through the county and state health departments.

Who is CMH testing?

CMH is following guidance from the NY State Departments of Health to identify patients who benefit from testing for the COVID 19 virus.  These guidelines are updated frequently, and the most recent advice can be found here:

At this point, we are ONLY testing individuals who fit into one of the high-risk categories approved by the state and have symptoms.

What if I was in close contact with someone who has been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient?

The CDC does not recommend testing, symptom monitoring or special management for people exposed to asymptomatic people with potential exposures to COVID-19, such as in a household, workplace or social setting.

What is CMH’s plan to minimize the spread of COVID-19?

Patients and visitors may notice some changes that have been put in place, which includes visitor restrictions, Telehealth virtual appointments and asking screening questions to all patients.

How is CMH protecting staff?

All front-line providers in CMH’s Emergency Departments are trained and wearing the recommended personal protective equipment to reduce exposure when a potential case presents. CMH is following standards that meet and go beyond the CDC’s recommendations. The COVID-19 outbreak is an evolving situation and the health system stands ready to adhere to changing recommendations from regulatory agencies.

Any limitations on visitation?

July 8, 2020

Visitation will be expanded to family and significant others of patients* in a manner that maintains the safety of patients, visitors, staff and the environment of care concerning the prevention of COVID-19 transmission. Therefore, the following provisions will be implemented on July 8, 2020, on a discretionary basis and can be further amended based on the current state of the COVID virus and other factors.


  • Visitation will be allowed only between the hours of 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. daily.
  • Patients will be permitted one healthy visitor per day. This healthy visitor can change day-to-day.
  • Visitor must be 18 years or older.
  • All visitors should present to the main lobby of the hospital wearing a mask. They will be checked in, screened, and have a temperature check. If their temperature is above 100.4 degrees, they will not be permitted entry to the hospital.
  • Visitors for ALL patients will be required to wear a face mask and perform hand hygiene upon entering and leaving the patient room.
  • Visitors for patients who are on enhanced droplet and contact precautions will be required to wear a face mask, eye shield, gown and gloves. Unit staff will assist with the proper wear of PPE and hand hygiene upon entering and leaving the patient room.
  • All visitors must remain in the patient’s room for the duration of the visit and must keep on the required PPE for the duration of the visit.
  • Visitors who cannot comply with this guidance will be asked to leave the hospital.

Emergency Services:

  • The Department of Emergency services will allow visitors on a limited case by case basis.

Surgical Services:

  • Patients undergoing surgical procedures may be accompanied to the hospital by one companion who may remain with the patient for the initial intake and then proceed to the Surgical Waiting Area, where they will be contacted by Surgical Services staff.
  • Visitation for special considerations related to pediatric patients, women undergoing childbirth, patients for whom a support person has been determined to be essential to the care of the patient (medically necessary), and patients in imminent end-of-life and compassionate exceptions will remain unchanged.

What else can I do to stay well during this crisis?

Remaining in good physical and emotional health is important as COVID-19 continues to spread. Consider the following tips:

  • Obtain your flu shot if you have not already. 
  • Exercise good judgement by avoiding non-essential travel to impacted areas identified by the CDC. 
  • Take practical steps such as routine handwashing to protect yourself and your families.

Other helpful information on COVID-19 can be found on the CDC website.

Helpful Resources

NYSDOH: Novel Coronavirus

CDC: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

CDC: What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

New York State Department of Health Coronavirus Hotline: 1-888-364-3065