Pittsburgh Poison Center Expands Phone Lines To Cover COVID-19 Questions

The Pittsburgh Poison Center of UPMC is used to getting off-the-wall calls. With the pandemic, the nurses behind the phone lines saw an opportunity to expand those calls to include all things COVID-19; KDKA's Nicole Ford reports.

Video Transcript

- Meantime, concern about new COVID variants has people asking how it might affect them. As Nicole Ford reports, some answers are now coming from the Pittsburgh Poison Center.

NICOLE FORD: The Pittsburgh Poison Center of UPMC is used to getting off the wall phone calls. With the pandemic, the nurses in charge saw an opportunity to expand those calls to include all things COVID-19.

AMANDA KORENOSKI: We had a pre-established 24/7 call center already staffed with nurses who have specific training in toxicology, but all of their backgrounds are in emergency medicine and intensive care.

NICOLE FORD: Over a dozen nurses on the front phone lines at the Pittsburgh Poison Center of UPMC.

- Poison Center. How can I help you?

AMANDA KORENOSKI: We really were able to put our heads together and discuss what kinds of questions are we getting. You know, let's find the right answers to those questions. And just over time we kind of built a library of answers.

NICOLE FORD: The Poison Center quickly became a community resource of information. A close partnership with the county health department allows this team to pull in the experts as things continue to change.

AMANDA KORENOSKI: There were definitely times where we were getting hundreds of calls in a day, especially in the beginning.

NICOLE FORD: The topics ranged from symptoms, to quarantining, to vaccine, and now even variants. No matter the question, this team works to find an answer. They tell me they're just doing their job to be part of the solution.

JAMES LEWIS: It's definitely a great feeling to-- really, it's a privilege to be able to serve the community in that way.

NICOLE FORD: Moving forward, the Poison Center has shown itself to be an emergency resource. The plan is to keep answering those COVID calls until they stop coming. Reporting downtown, Nicole Ford, KDKA News.