Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), continues to spread across multiple continents, infecting over 13 million worldwide, with over 3.5 million cases and 139,000 deaths in the United States alone. Government authorities in nearly all fifty states continue to recommend shelter-in-place protocols, as outbreaks cluster in multiple regions across the United States. Numerous medical offices have temporarily closed their doors while those remaining open are being overwhelmed with patients seeking assistance.
With the escalating pandemic, medical offices are very attentive to the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 and are proactively taking steps to safely manage patients while protecting clinical staff. Daily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gathers data and advises clinicians and the general public on COVID-19 through its website and televised press conferences. As a community, we must remain well-informed and current on public health guidance for patient management and prevention of continuous widespread outbreak.
Early on, medical facilities and the entire healthcare industry were poorly prepared for this outbreak, but with increased testing availability, and by following current clinical guidelines, facilities and patients can work collectively to limit the spread of the virus.
The following are some recommendations for the screening and management of suspected exposure to COVID-19:
1 - Reference the CDC, professional societies, federal, state, and local authorities daily for public health guidance and new legislation.
2 - Regularly sanitize and wash your hands thoroughly with soaps for up to 20 seconds.
3 - Follow the CDC’s patient assessment protocol for early disease detection or possible exposure to COVID-19.
4 - Cough and/or sneeze into your clothes to prevent dispersion of bodily fluids.
5 - With community spread, the CDC recommends alternatives to face-to-face visits if screening can take place over the phone, via telemedicine, through patient portals or online self-assessment tools.
6 - When presenting with some known symptoms of the virus, contact your PCP (Primary Care Physician) for further instructions on how to receive adequate treatment of your symptoms.
7 - The CDC recommends postponing all nonessential or elective healthcare visits and group-related activities, and states are mandating the provision of emergency services only.
8 - Follow Standard Precautions and Transmission-Based Precautions, including wearing gloves, masks and protective eyewear in public places
9 - Check with your local public health authorities for locations designated to triage suspected patients, so exposure is limited in general medical offices.