The “Hot Zone” in the Coffey household is busier than the nearby workbench.
It’s a small, taped-off section of Christanne Coffey’s garage where she takes off her face mask, her shoes, and her scrubs before heading inside her house to take a shower. Only then, after a long day in the emergency room at UC San Diego’s Jacobs Medical Center, will Dr. Coffey hug her family.
“I think there’s always an element of concern,” said Dr. Coffey.
There are elements of concern in her ER and ERs across the United States. According to a UC San Diego spokeswoman, emergency rooms in San Diego County saw roughly 48,000 fewer people between March and April this year than they did in 2019.
“We would have expected for all these rooms to be full at this time,” said Dr. Coffey as she walked by several empty ER patient rooms.
“My biggest fear now is that we do have people that are home that are vulnerable that have chronic medical conditions,” she said.
Coffey said people are likely suffering but choose to stay at home because they fear contracting the coronavirus or they simply do not want to get in the way.
“They’re apologetic, telling us, ‘We’re sorry to be here. We know that you guys are really busy and overwhelmed,’” recalled Coffey. “And we try to reassure them that, no, we want them to come. We want to take care of them.”
Coffey said they want people to come in if they have true emergencies or are battling chronic medical issues that could get worse. She said the emergency room is safe, coronavirus patients are isolated, and there are additional safety protocols for medical staff to protect each other and patients.
Those safety protocols include Dr. Coffey’s “Hot Zone” at home.
“I think that it’s worth it if it means we are helping keep our community safe.”