Strategic Communications Health Crisis Response to COVID-19: How are Hospital Communications Departments Handling the Outbreak? Guest Post by Suzie Gil and Ellie Stamp

People from all over the world are currently facing a pandemic they could never have imagined having to fight in their lifetimes; COVID-19. The contagion has taken the world by storm since its first case of the virus in November 2019 in the Hubei province of China. The virus is so deadly that over 33,876 people have died from the pneumonia-causing illness as of yet and it has reached 199 countries. The coronavirus has created widespread fear on a global scale, as people are afraid to leave their homes. People have been forced to act against the virus as they are stocking up on groceries and necessities to last them months as well on top of wearing surgical masks and gloves to protect themselves from the spread in public settings. Citizens across the globe are practicing social isolation and working or attending school from home until the spread of the virus is contained, as the majority of businesses and schools have been shut down indefinitely. There are a number of blogs on how to handle the stress of the coronavirus, such as the Harvard Health Publishing Medical School Blog.
Medical facilities are overwhelmed in each country. In China, the government responded quickly to this crisis, building hospitals made to only treat the coronavirus to treat their citizens efficiently and effectively.  The countries Italy and Spain have seen an extreme rise in coronavirus cases, their hospitals are packed with citizens who need treatment for pneumonia (). There are not enough doctors or pieces of medical equipment to treat the number of patients coming in with the virus. Funeral homes and morgues have become overfilled in both Italy and Spain. The Italian military has used their army trucks as makeshift morgues, and Spain has used an ice rink as a morgue. Medical professionals in Spain have had to leave sick patients to die in their beds at home because of the growing cases.

The United States has seen significant growth of coronavirus patients and it has become a national epidemic. The cities of Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and New York City are the new centers of the virus. Both the cities of New York and Los Angeles are running out of hospital beds and equipment. Hospitals have reached out for help to the government. The Navy hospital ship, Mercy, has 1,000 beds on board and it has been docked in Los Angeles to help with the overwhelming number of patients. The USNS navy hospital ship is set out to sail to the epicenter of the virus to New York City (McLaughlin & Martinez, 2020).
Hospital communication departments are providing COVID-19 updates on their home websites. The hospitals are posting alerts to their homepages with directions on what to do if a person thinks they may have been exposed to the virus and what symptoms of the virus look like. Hospitals are also releasing information on how to avoid contracting the virus with health tips on their websites, as well as informational infographics on how to stay safe.

Hospitals are providing public service announcements on television channels to reach local residents to keep them informed on the virus spread in their areas. The CEO of Yale New Haven Hospital, Marna Borgstrom, relayed the message for the hospital PSA, on how Yale is handling the virus. Using the one voice principle of public relations where one spokesperson represents the organization, Borgstrom explains what equipment the hospital is using and how the hospital is keeping their patients and employees safe (Smith, 461). Yale New Haven hospital is having doctors share information with quick videos on the virus. Hospitals are also providing links to call centers for people who may have questions about the virus and resources and videos for those experiencing anxiety from their psychiatry departments. Hospitals are also using their platform to ask for help from citizens to donate resources to hospitals for them to use the donations to create equipment in New York City.

Hospital employees need everyone to stay inside and practice social distancing in order to help flatten the curve. Hospitals are also asking those with 3-D printers to help make personal protective equipment such as face shields for local hospitals. Make sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your face, and to use multiple pairs of disposable gloves in public places.

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