SAN ANTONIO — As the number of coronavirus cases keeps growing locally and nationally, San Antonio emergency rooms are prepared for a surge. Meanwhile, doctors are warning about hidden symptoms of the virus, otherwise referred to as COVID-19. 

Ralph Riviello is in charge of emergency medicine at University Health System and UT Health San Antonio.

"Our biggest challenge currently is the fear of the unknown," he said. "We don't like to panic, but we want to expect and prepare for the worst."

They are preparing for scenes like the ones outside of hospitals like in New York, where hospital staff are overwhelmed with a surge in patients.

"If you follow the numbers and patterns from other cities, we are probably very early in our COVID exposure, and we do have the potential to mirror other cities," he said. "But I think we got ahead of it pretty early, much earlier than other cities. I hope that will make a big difference in what COVID-19 looks like for San Antonio."

Not knowing what exactly is to come is daunting. Nevertheless, Riviello said staff at University Hospital are ready, and constantly reviewing their game plan.

"A lot of it is resource management—making sure we have the resources, the physicians, the nurses, the staff, the equipment to take care of patients," he said. "I think we are prepared as we can be. We will just have to wait and see what happens."

During this coronavirus fight, Riviello and other physicians nationwide are coming across new symptoms.

"We are also hearing of cases of patients reporting loss of taste, smell (who) are coming up COVID-positive," he said. "Patients are telling us that they have a lot of body aches, lots of fatigue and tiredness."

Riviello also noted that overall volume at emergency rooms across San Antonio is down.

"I believe a lot of patients are staying away from the emergency department with mild injuries and minor complaints, and seeking healthcare elsewhere," he said. "Or just taking a wait-and-see approach."

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