A lot has changed since our last update on the status of COVID-19. Frankly, it seems like the Earth is shifting under our feet. March Madness has been cancelled and Tom Hanks has been infected. Events are being cancelled everywhere out of an “abundance of caution”, which is a term that you should get used to hearing.
As of this morning, there are 17 confirmed cases in NC, all of these are still considered active. There have been no fatalities. There are no cases in the local area.
Here are some things we think you should know: (Please visit our website for the first post where a detailed overview of the virus and how it spreads—www.prominahealth.com/blog)
I have a cold, should I be tested?
Probably not. The criteria for testing are still fairly narrow and include those with symptoms that have been within direct contact of a person that has tested positive for Coronavirus.
If I am sick, do I need to come in for an appointment?
Most people that have colds do not need to go to the doctor. Going forward, we are going to be reserving in-office sick visits for those with particular characteristics such as a “real” fever (102 or greater) after five days or so, severe headache/neck stiffness, and respiratory distress. This has always been our intent, but we will be observing this concept more stringently, at least for the near future. If you are sick and think you need to be evaluated, we will be using Spruce’s virtual visit function that allows for an in-depth evaluation. Please note that we have seen many cases of colds that have lasted longer than we normally expect. Without specific signs of a bacterial illness, there is no role for antibiotics in these cases.
I have cold/flu symptoms, don't I need to get tested for Coronavirus?
The criteria for being tested is put out by the CDC and are very narrow. Only those with symptoms and recent contact with another person who has tested positive for Coronavirus should be tested. Also, hospitalized people that have been tested for other causes (flu, other viruses) and are all negative can be tested.
What if I do need to be tested for Coronavirus, can that be done at Promina Health?
Yes. We have received confirmation from Quest Diagnostics today that we can now send specimens for testing. The cost for uninsured patients will be $95, this will be billed directly to the patient by Quest and we are still working this part out. For insured patients we will submit insurance information with the test requisition. For healthsharing members, you are considered “uninsured” and your organization may consider this a shareable expense. Liberty Healthshare has indicated that they will consider this shareable.
I’m really scared, can’t I just get tested and pay the $95???
No, not unless you meet the testing criteria. Although Quest is a non-governmental laboratory company, anyone that is tested has to be reported to the health department as a “Person Under Investigation” (PUI). That person will be treated as if they are infected and will be required to self-quarantine until a result of their test is returned, they will also be watched closely by the health department.
Should I cancel my vacation/marathon/church service/etc?
The NC DHHS is asking all county health agencies to recommend social distancing measures and to cancel events that would involve over 100 people. New Hanover County Health Dept has adopted this recommendation and I imagine that other counties have as well. All over the local area, church leaders, race directors, and other officials are making hard decisions and the majority of them are heeding that advice. Many churches have decided not to hold live services this Sunday, and two local races have cancelled.
As for personal travel, each situation is going to be a little different. I would not recommend travel into a high-risk area (China, Italy, Washington State) by anyone. There are no local cases currently, but air travel does a lot of mixing. Anyone 65 years or older, particularly with chronic health conditions like heart disease, COPD, or smoking, should avoid airline travel and large events (if there are any left that haven’t been cancelled). Going on a cruise right now is uber risky.
I am FREAKING OUT about all of this!! What can I do?!?
Well first of all, I would be comforted by the fact that everyone is taking this seriously. I mean, March Madness is cancelled, you can’t get much more serious than that, right? Local and state leaders, leaders at NHRMC, and other officials are really putting the work in to make sure that we can handle whatever comes of COVID-19 for our area.
I think it is really important for all of us to live our lives to the extent that we can and stay connected. Continue to participate in activities that don’t involve 100 people. If your church has cancelled services, join with others on Sunday morning to watch services streamed on the internet. Reach out to that person in your life that is high risk and feeling isolated, give them a call or a FaceTime chat. And stop hoarding toilet paper, for goodness’ sake.
What can I do to avoid getting sick?
The recommendations remain: wash hands frequently and avoid close contact (within 6ft) of others who appear sick (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, etc.) To help protect others, stay home if you are sick, cover your coughs and sneezes, wear a face mask if you are sick (not needed if you are not sick!), and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. And stop touching your face!
What are you doing at Promina Health to keep patients safe?
We are disinfecting frequently touched areas throughout our office regularly. We are also assessing patient symptoms before scheduling in-office visits. Finally, we continue to monitor updates from the CDC and Health Department so that we have the most current and accurate information.
We will continue to provide updates and the situation changes. As always, we are privileged to be trusted to care for you and your family.