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Covid-19 patients aren’t usually checking themselves into hospitals like Chris Christie, experts say

Christie’s announcement, which followed news that Trump, first lady Melania Trump and other Republican leaders had tested positive for the virus, sparked a flurry of reactions online. Chief among them: confusion.

“Regarding Chris Christie, can someone please tell me how one checks into a hospital as a ‘precautionary measure’?” one person wrote on Twitter.

Another person asked, “Can an ordinary citizen with mild symptoms just check themselves into a hospital out of an abundance of caution? Is that how this works?”

Not exactly, experts say.

“What occurred over the weekend with Governor Christie sharing on social media that he was checking himself into the hospital because of his covid-19 diagnosis, that would be extraordinarily uncommon,” said Mark Shapiro, associate medical director for hospital services at St. Joseph Health Medical Group of Sonoma County, Calif.

The process of being admitted to a hospital with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is much more complex than Christie’s tweet may have suggested, Shapiro added. He, and other experts, urged people who test positive for the coronavirus and are asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms not to show up at hospitals seeking to be admitted for treatment.

Christie, who may have an increased chance of developing a more severe case of covid-19 because of his asthma and other potential risk factors, declined to comment on the specifics of his hospital admittance.

Atlantic Health System, which operates the hospital where Christie is receiving care, also declined to provide additional details. “Every patient we care for is carefully assessed by a physician to determine their clinical needs,” the hospital said in a statement. “Those determinations, including where care needs to take place, are based on their expert clinical judgment.”

The procedure at most hospitals, according to Shapiro, is that people who fall ill after contracting the coronavirus are admitted through emergency departments following an assessment by a team of health-care providers.

At Mayo Clinic hospitals, for instance, members of the covid-19 front-line care team, many of whom are primary care providers, call patients with positive test results and ask them questions about their condition, which helps with “risk stratification,” said John O’Horo, an infectious-disease specialist with the clinic in Rochester, Minn. In the event that hospitalization may be needed, people usually are processed through the clinic’s emergency room, where they will receive a more thorough assessment to see if they should be admitted.

“We’ll check their vitals, usually get some imaging like a chest X-ray to see if there is a clear pneumonia developing, and check some bloodwork to see how their markers of inflammation and immune function are doing,” O’Horo said. “Based on that, the sum total of looking at all of those things, plus the questions about their ability to continue this kind of care at home, a decision can be made to admit the patient to a special covid unit.”

Still, O’Horo noted, “there are no hard and fast rules really when it comes to deciding if somebody needs to be hospitalized.”