We really want to make sure that you know how we plan to serve you as COVID-19 spreads through our community, so we've put this together to explain what you can expect from us over the next few weeks to months.
First of all: you probably have enough toilet paper and water! 🙂 If you want to prepare and stock up, it would be reasonable to grab a couple weeks’ worth of non-perishable food items (in case you’re asked to self-quarantine or are caring for someone who has to quarantine) and to make sure you’ve got enough of the staples like ibuprofen/acetaminophen and your prescription medications to last a few weeks. We’ll discuss precautions you can take a bit more below at the end of this email. We are fully committed to caring for our patients in the most evidence-based, safe capacity possible. In this vein, we’ve instituted a few policies to protect ourselves and our staff, which — in turn — keeps you all as healthy as possible.
The most important things we want you to know are:
If you have isolated, upper respiratory symptoms and no fever, we will recommend home care and that you NOT come in for an in-person visit. You are always welcome to schedule a phone visit with your physician to talk through things.
If you have lower respiratory symptoms and/or fever, a nurse or your physician will recommend a telephone visit to ascertain if an in-person visit is warranted.
If we determine that you need an in-person visit, the visit will occur in your vehicle in the parking lot of our clinic so as to prevent potential spread and exposure to others. Seriously. In the parking lot. Though it’s not how we usually do things, it’s the most effective way to prevent the spread in the clinic. If you have severe symptoms, we will likely refer you directly to a hospital. From what we know thus far about COVID-19, symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization occur approximately 9-12 days after symptoms first appear.
Until we have clear direction from government officials that there are enough testing kits for widespread testing, we will NOT be recommending testing for just anyone with symptoms of respiratory infection; we will be making this decision on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with public health officials. WE WILL NOT BE TESTING AT OUR OFFICE. If we determine you need to be tested, our physicians will contact DHEC to determine where you should be tested.
PATIENTS OVER 60 and patients of any age with SEVERE CHRONIC MEDICAL PROBLEMS
Patients 60 and over as well as patients of any age with severe chronic medical problems are at the highest risk for severe cases and death from this new Coronavirus.
Our Direct Access MD physicians recommend that if you are a high risk patient you refrain from coming into our office for regular and follow up visits. We also recommend to stay home as much as possible, limit contact with others, and practice social distancing of 6 feet if you do have to go out. No one needs to panic, but we need to protect the vulnerable. We will know more in the next 2-3 weeks about how severe this outbreak is going to be in the US. Ideally, high risk patients should stay at home and not be in contact with people other than care takers and avoid folks who have been traveling for 2 weeks. People can spread the disease for about 7 days before they get sick. Definitely a good idea for all of us to practice frequent hand-washing, not touching our face, eyes, or nose, and staying away from sick people and avoid close crowds. FaceTime/Skype/Text/Phone is the safest way to visit/communicate.
We cannot be more explicit than this:
If we come into contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19, all Direct Access MD staff & physicians who made contact with that individual will have to quarantine for 14 days. As we’re small, this may lead to a situation where we will have to close for ALL in-person interactions, prescription pickups, etc. for up to (and potentially longer than) a 14-day period. If this were to occur, we would attempt to still offer telephone triage and telemedicine visits. There isn’t any safe way around this.
Again, we’re putting these guidelines in place to prevent the spread of this illness to the most vulnerable around us. We so appreciate your understanding, patience, and effort to keep everyone in the Direct Access MD family healthy as we all see our routines upended a bit by this virus.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions or reach out!
How to protect yourself & others:
Just like any other respiratory virus: stay home if you’re sick!
Just like preventing any other respiratory virus: take good care of yourself! Exercise regularly, eat nutritious, balanced meals, practice stress mitigation techniques, and get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep a night, etc.
Just like preventing any other respiratory virus: wash your hands! A lot!
Just like preventing any other respiratory virus: don’t touch your eyes, mouth, nose, etc., and get into the habit of washing your hands before eating.
If you can, avoid contact with those who are sick or are caring for the sick.
If you are not actively sick (or caring for someone who is), ear-loop/surgical masks are not likely helpful. Healthcare workers will wear masks (and often higher-rated ones than the ear-loop masks), as they have a much higher likelihood of caring for someone with the disease and are prioritizing mitigating the spread to others.
Those who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or those who are being tested for COVID-19 will likely be asked to self-quarantine (currently not mandatory). If your job permits, start asking your employer about work-from-home opportunities; if your job doesn’t permit work-from-home, ask your employer what their plan is to keep you safe!
Because of the real possibility of a quarantine, stock a couple week’s worth of non-perishable foods items in a pantry. Also make sure you have the basics — like medications, OTCs like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, and pseudoephedrine, and (a rational amount of) toilet paper, facial tissues, etc.