Rebuilding America: Our series dives into our community's efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebooting health care will be a slow and calculating process, local officials said.


AdventHealth Ottawa, the local hospital, and Rock Creek of Ottawa, a long-term care facility, are keeping safety measures in place as other businesses open to the public.


"We are slowly starting to reopen to all areas: hospital, ambulatory and physician offices," said Brenda Pfizenmaier, AdventHealth Ottawa director of public relations. "We have taken specific measures to ensure the safety of patients, team members and medical staff."


Stephanie Anderson, Rock Creek of Ottawa executive director, said that facility is still in lockdown mode.


"We are currently following CDC guidelines regarding visitation with nursing home facilities," Anderson said. "They recommend we continue what we have been doing with the lockdown. We will continue that until Phase 3. Once Phase 3 happens, we will revisit it."


Phase 3 of the governor’s statewide reopening plan will not start before mid-June.


The hospital put several measures in place as it reopened to the public in early May: universal masking, social distancing measures, limit one visitor per patient, testing all staff and patients, temperature checks of everyone entering the hospital, screening of visitors and enhanced disinfecting.


"We know (coronavirus) is so contagious," Pfizenmaier said. "So many people don’t know they have it. They feel fine. They are passing it along quickly and don’t even know it."


Rock Creek understands the "new normal" could be here forever.


"We understand going back to normal is probably not ever going to happen," Anderson said. "We will have to take these steps to keep this at bay. Social distancing and all of those things need to remain in effect moving forward.


"Our population is more frail than a lot of other places. The extra precautions and measures are so important. We have to keep everybody safe."


All hospital visitors check in under the canopy at the hospital’s main entrance. They are asked health questions and have their temperature taken.


Pfizenmaier said once the screening is completed, visitors are asked to wait in their vehicles for their appointment.


"We are trying to limit their time around others," she said. "The less contact for everybody, the less opportunity to get COVID-19. We can take them back to a clean and safe environment."


Pfizenmaier said stickers are in place throughout the hospital to help visitors with social distancing.


"We have great stickers on the ground that say ‘please stand here for your safety,’ " she said.


Anderson said families have been creative in how they stay in touch with loved ones in Rock Creek’s care.


"A lot of our families use Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and all those avenues," she said. "They show up outside of their windows."


Courtney Taylor, Rock Creek community liaison, said staff give daily updates to families.


"We make daily phone calls to the families to let them know what is going on," Taylor said. "We are trying to stay transparent as possible with the community and families."


The hospital is working on new innovations, such as telehealth.


"We have been able to start advancements in telehealth," Pfizenmaier said. "The people we have done it with really liked it."


She said telehealth and touchless registration will be implemented in June.


"We have some great new things on the horizon," she said.


Pfizenmaier said the public needs to work together to keep the spread of COVID-19 as minimal as possible.


"We are relying on each other," she said. "We got into health care because we love taking care of patients. Every team member is working hard to take of our community.


"We believe together we will rise. We rise by lifting others."