COVID-19 Update: A Message from Robert T. Braithwaite

I hope this finds you well and healthy. I am writing to update you about Hoag’s COVID-19 response, tell you what we expect the next few weeks to look like and let you know what you can do to continue to take care of your health and your community.

Hoag was one of the first hospitals to treat a known COVID-19 patient in the state in January, and we have been keeping our patients safe from infection ever since. Orange County is home to 5.6% of the cases of COVID-19 in California – lower than Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside.

One of the reasons our numbers remain low is because so many of you have adhered to the state’s “shelter at home” measures.

Another reason COVID-19 has not hit our community as hard as our neighbors is due to the incredible work of infection prevention professionals both in the county and here locally at Hoag. Thanks in part to their work, only 4% of our hospital beds and 2% of our ventilators are in use for COVID patients, and we have enough supplies and personal protective equipment to care for our community and assist other nonprofit and civic organizations as well.

Testing is another critical component to fighting the spread of disease. Our countywide presence allows us to provide testing for patients, when referred by their physicians, at our Urgent Care and medical group offices throughout Orange County. So far, we have performed more than 7,900 tests, of which less than 6% have tested positive.

Getting entirely “back to normal” is contingent upon finding adequate treatment and a vaccine. To that end, Hoag has been fortunate to participate in a number of clinical trials, including serving as one of the international sites for the antiviral drug Remdesivir. The antiviral drug recently received an emergency approval by the FDA for patients severely ill with COVID-19. When vaccine trials become available, we are committed to providing our patients with access to those, as well.

In the coming days and weeks, we anticipate further easing of community measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. To continue to keep our community healthy, we have instituted enhanced cleaning protocols and new safety policies at our hospitals, urgent care facilities and clinics. We offer digital tools, including telehealth to connect our patients to their doctors by telephone or video chat. Some services now allow for patients to wait in their car, and all waiting areas have socially distanced seating in lieu of traditional waiting room spaces. Every person who walks into our facility receives a temperature screening, and face masks or coverings are required as well.

These have been difficult and trying days for all of us, and I want to thank each of you for all you have done to keep each other safe and lift one another’s spirits. Whether it is by staying at home, donating blood or convalescent plasma, or by sending messages of gratitude to our health care workers, your support has been an invaluable part of Hoag’s ability to care for the community.

We will emerge from this better and stronger – together.