Mercy Hospital adds temporary coronavirus testing unit, treated two COVID-19 patients


David Harmantas

Mercy Hospital is seen in Iowa City, IA on September 25, 2017. Mercy is one of the two major hospitals in Iowa City. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Sarah Watson, Managing Editor

Mercy Hospital in Iowa City has treated two patients who’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and have set up temporary facilities to test patients with coronavirus-like symptoms.

President of Mercy Hospital Foundation and Director of Communications with Mercy Margaret Reese said at a press conference Tuesday that one patient was recovering in the hospital and another was released to go home.

A tent was constructed Monday connected to the outside of the emergency room as a temporary testing area to separate those who may have COVID-19 from patients in the rest of the hospital.

Mercy has administered 39 tests through the State Hygienic Lab in Iowa City, which has completed the bulk of the coronavirus testing in Iowa, and received results within 24 hours, Reese said. Most of the tests, she added, were conducted for people who traveled on the same Egypt cruise, which is connected to 14 cases of COVID-19 in Johnson County.

She urged people who have coronavirus-like symptoms to call either their local health care provider or the on-call nurses triage unit so they can be screened before coming into the hospital.

“We are preparing for the worst and we’re definitely hoping for the best,” Reese said when asked about how many patients with COVID-19 Mercy was expecting to test or treat. “If needed, we have the capacity to convert our largest nursing unit to a negative airflow unit to care for patients.”

Mercy will also place further restrictions on visitors, limiting patients to one healthy visitor — two for pediatric patients. Reese added that the hospital will close their 15-room guest lodging. The hospital would honor the reservations of those currently staying there, but has canceled all future reservations and isn’t taking any new ones.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has also limited visitors and constructed a temporary coronavirus-specific center.