A Message from Your Care Team about Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We know that many of you having been living in a state of fear and anxiety as we collectively watch the COVID-19 Coronavirus spread across the nation and the state of Colorado. As the number of confirmed cases –and deaths—in the U.S. climbs, there has been a lot of widespread (and unnecessary) panic. Supermarkets are selling out of toilet paper, drugstores are selling out of masks and medical offices are overflowing with patients who are scared that they might have the virus. In all of the chaos, it can be hard to know what to do and who to trust for accurate information, which is why we wanted to reach out to you.
St. Luke’s has been following COVID-19 closely and working with the CDC and the Larimer County Health Department to prepare for an outbreak in our community and to learn the best ways to help our patients prevent infection. While there is a lot that the medical community is still learning about the COVID-19 virus, what we can tell you is this:
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
The majority of people who contract COVID-19 will have little more than mild to moderate cold or flu-like symptoms.
The people who are at highest risk of complications and serious illness are older patients and those who have underlying medical problems such as heart, lung or kidney disease or diabetes. However, many things can be done to help reduce exposure and prevent these complications.
You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. If you have not been in close contact with a sick person with COVID-19, you are considered to be at low risk for infection. Close contact includes: living in the same household as a person sick with COVID-19, caring for a person sick with COVID-19, being within 6 feet of a person sick with COVID-19 for at least 10 minutes, or being in direct contact with fluids from a person sick with COVID-19 (this includes being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.).
The number one way to prevent infection is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly using soap and running water. You should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (or the length of time it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song twice). If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
You do not need to barricade yourself in your house with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper as a precautionary measure. You MAY need to quarantine yourself at home if you come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 or if you test positive for the virus yourself, so it is a good idea to have some extra food and supplies on hand, but keep in mind that many stores also deliver.
You do need to wear a face mask in public in order to reduce the risk of being contaminated or spreading the virus to others.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are in alignment with COVID-19 (fever, cough and shortness of breath) or have been exposed to the virus, here is what to do:
If your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain and high fever, or you have other symptoms that constitute an emergency, you should seek immediate care at your local Emergency Room. There, they can evaluate your symptoms and test you for COVID-19 if necessary.
If your symptoms are mild, the local hospitals are urging you to stay at home and to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. Monitor your health and track any changes in your symptoms or temperature (you can find a chart to track your symptoms on our blog). If your symptoms worsen, contact our office (or the office of your Primary Care Provider) immediately. If you have any symptoms that constitute an emergency, go to the Emergency Room.
If you are an older patient or are at higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19, contact our office (or the office of your PCP) as soon as you experience any symptoms. In order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others, we will schedule a telemedicine appointment for you so that our providers can evaluate your symptoms over phone or Skype.
If our providers believe that you could be suffering from COVID-19, they will write you a lab order, which you will need to present at the lab in order to get tested. You will need to pick up your lab order at our office. Please call ahead, and someone will meet you outside.
The Larimer County Health Department is asking that all possible COVID-19 cases with minor symptoms be tested at the UC Health Harmony Campus Drive-Through Lab, which is located at 4630 Snow Mesa Drive and is open Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm. As a reminder, you cannot get tested without a lab order from your Primary Care Provider. All severe cases should be tested at a local emergency room.
If you do not have any active symptoms but have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine yourself at home for 14 days from the last date of exposure. Do not go to work or school, and avoid public places and all public transportation, including ride shares. Monitor your health for fever, cough or shortness of breath, and contact your Primary Heathcare Provider’s office if symptoms develop. You can find instructions on how to self-monitor for COVID-19, as well as a chart to track your symptoms and fever, on our blog.
If you are trying to stay healthy and prevent COVID-19, follow the CDC’s advice: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds (or the amount of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice). If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call our office. We will be sharing more information and resources with you as we receive it, and we will also be posting lots of content on our blog about how to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong.
In the meantime, please try to stay calm, take some deep breaths and know that we are here for you and praying for you.