THE 23RD WORLD AIDS CONFERENCE IS HAPPENING NOW.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED YOU CAN BE PART OF IT BY CLICKING
THE LINK BELOW
The 23rd World AIDS Conference is happening now. If you are interested, you can be part of it by clicking here or www.aids2020.org
The first day of the conference was great. It was a little bit of a challenge attending it virtually instead of in person. The times are Pacific time so you need to add 3 hours when looking at the program. Enjoy and learn! — Dr. Benson
The Global Village and Youth Programme kicks off at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020: Virtual)!
The Global Village is a diverse and vibrant space where communities from all over the world gather virtually to connect, share and learn from each other.
The Global Village and Youth Programme is free to access from 6 - 10 July. From the conference website you'll be able to access over 160 activities from live workshops to on-demand sessions, cultural performances, networking zones, NGO booths, and art exhibits.
The AIDS 2020: Virtual Global Village and Youth Programme features over 160 activities, including:
With a range of engaging, creative and informative events to look forward to, the programme at a glance provides a snapshot of Global Village and Youth Programme activities throughout AIDS 2020: Virtual.
Take a look at the schedule and start planning your experience today!
Youth Force Daily Broadcast
Youth Force Daily is a broadcast coming to you throughout the week of AIDS 2020: Virtual, featuring guests from around the world discussing issues related to young people and HIV.
Hosts will be talking with clinicians, researchers, HIV activists, youth organizations and youth involved in the field. Tune in each day to better understand the challenges faced and successes achieved by young people, youth organizations and local HIV responses!
Learn more about the San Francisco and Oakland Youth Force here.
The future of the HIV response
Join thousands of delegates from 175 countries from 6 – 10 July 2020, to be part of accelerating progress in the global HIV response.
Get involved at www.aids2020.org
Since 1980 Dr. Paul Benson and the Be Well Medical Center has been an inclusive medical center celebrating diversity for people to get quality personal care by a medical staff that gets to know you. We take tremendous pride in our history of creating a safe space for people of all backgrounds. Our non-discrimination policy (see picture above) has always been prominently displayed in our corridor. The care and attention we provide to populations of people who have traditionally been neglected by the healthcare industry is something that sets our practice apart from others.
Today is an uncertain and critical time for our country and all of its people. We strongly believe, being a medical center of inclusion that we should affirm that BLACK LIVES MATTER.
We will continue to provide you with high quality and compassionate primary care in whatever capacity we can, and we are proud to do so.
TO YOUR GOOD HEALTH...WE REMAIN
Use this weekend get some fresh air, move around, and safely enjoy yourselves. We are changing the content and amount of information in this week’s COVID-19 update. We are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel as more and more COVID-19 data is compiled. It’s a learning curve and we are beginning to open up our communities in a manner that maintains social distancing and wearing facial coverings. New therapies and vaccines are in the pharmaceutical pipeline. We have successfully flattened the curve. The question we are asked the most is, “Will there be a second COVID-19 wave in the Fall?”. No one knows for sure when or how severe a second wave may be , but we can tell you with confidence that as a society we’ve learned a lot, and will be better prepared in managing it.
We are providing healthcare both inside the office and by telemedicine as well keeping the office sanitized for everyone's protection. After hours of persuasion with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, we now have the Abbott ID Now test kits to get COVID-19 viral PCR results in a matter of minutes. We believe we are the only primary care office in the state with this capability. These tests are performed in our office. Our availability of these rapid tests is limited, so we will use this rapid test only when the situation demands it. Otherwise, we will order the COVID-19 test to Biotech Laboratory and get the results in one day. We now have a COVID-19 antibody test that that we are satisfied with regards to accuracy. We also get these results in one day. Both of these tests, the PCR and Antibody tests, are readily available to us through Biotech. If you want either of these tests, you will need to schedule an in office or tele-medical visit with us. We will evaluate this with you, and order it, when appropriate. Then, you can go to the lab in our building to get the desired test taken.
The exciting news this week is that Baxter, our official canine Be Well Medical Center greeter and Mascot, turns 11 years old Friday, May 22, 2020. He has been a valuable and dedicated employee since 2009. For the last 10 years I have posted his birthday picture on Facebook, and he has received many posts from patients. Last year, honoring his 10th birthday, I donated $2.00 for every Baxter Birthday shout out to his picture post to the Detroit Dog Rescue Society. I’m doing it again this year. Simply reply to his picture post between now and Sunday and I will donate $2.00 for each post. It’s also a good time to like our Be Well Medical Center on Facebook. This is another way to receive valuable health tips from us.
Thank you and…
To Your Good Health…We Remain
We would like to thank everyone for letting us know how much you have enjoyed our weekly COVID-19 updates. It was never our original intention to do these weekly, however after all the appreciated feedback, we will continue providing them.
We continue to function well inside the Be Well Medical Center as we settle into our new normal. How long this will last is anyone’s guess. We have staggered our scheduling of patients and there is seldom the chance that you will share the reception room waiting to enter an exam room.
Telemedicine has reduced the need for every visit to take place inside our office, and this has helped us maintain separation and distancing. Everyone, wherever you are, needs to use common sense. Wear facial coverings and keep about six-feet distance from others. We will get through this. It’s interesting that in many countries they have used facial protection for years, and don’t give any second thought to this. Our culture may evolve to this as being normal as well.
This week, we would like to refer you to a quality newsletter that Medical Diagnostic Laboratories (MDL) sent to our office. They are the reference lab we use for certain laboratory testing, including COVID-19 nasal swabs. Their COVID-19 newsletter is one of the best we have come across. It’s very complete, well written, understandable, and covers many different aspects about COVID-19 in an apolitical manner. If you are interested here is the link:
In next week’s newsletter we will discuss and provide you with information on donating your plasma if you have had COVID-19. This may be useful to those that currently have COVID-19 and those who have recovered from it wanting to help others.
In the meantime, continue your Patience, Compassion, Gentility, Kindness, and Smiles!
To Your Good Health… We Remain
We hope everyone is doing as well as can be during these unusual times. We are okay inside the Be Well Medical Center. We are seeing patients at the office and by telemedical visits every day. We have still suspended evening clinics through the month of May. Some patients have stated that they don’t want to call and bother us, since we are so busy. That is not necessary, and I want you to know that we are here and available to you. Please wear a facial covering if you come to the office. We will take your temperature and complete a respiratory questionnaire before allowing you entrance into the building.
Tensions around the world appears to be on the rise. We need more gentility, kindness, compassion, and smiles right now. We are making significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. Remdesivir, an intravenous medication developed by Gilead, has just been authorized by the FDA to treat severe COVID-19. It has been shown to reduce the number of days of hospitalization. This is very significant!
The new COVID-19 antibody test by Roche is now approved. It is 99.8% accurate, and the one I have been waiting for. Now, we can discuss antibody testing knowing we have a good test to use. Antibody testing is not for everyone, but it can give useful information. Antibody testing will become more and more useful in the near future.
COVID-19 is a virus that causes inflammation, generally, but not limited to the respiratory system. Inflammation is bad and is the cause of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as well as other diseases. We need to do what we can to reduce inflammation inside our body for maintaining the best health possible. Good medical treatment and control of all seemingly unrelated medical ailments are important in reducing inflammation. We don’t want the COVID-19 virus to be “the straw that brakes the camel’s back” when it comes to inflammation in your body. If you are prescribed medications to treat hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, or anything else, make sure you take them as instructed to keep your body’s inflammation in check.
Other things I can suggest to help reduce inflammation are the following:
Although not specifically approved or indicated for COVID-19 protection, I recommend Vitamin D at over the counter strength. Some studies have shown that low Vitamin D levels in COVID-19 patients is associated with a higher mortality. Also, Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can reduce inflammation. Turmeric has been reported to reduce inflammation as well. Like anything else, the more layers of protection you take to reduce inflammation, the better off you may be.
I’ve recently heard that people who have recovered from COVID-19 may be at a higher risk for getting blood clots. This is not age or time specific. The use of low dose aspirin can be discussed as a measure to prevent this. This is an off-label recommendation.
Please be creative and safe in celebrating this year’s Mother’s Day!
To Your Good Health…We Remain
I believe we may have turned the corner regarding COVID-19 and life should hopefully be beginning to get better. Spring is in the air and it’s starting to blossom outside. We recommend you take the opportunity to safely spend some time outdoors. Take some deep breaths and increase your physical activity. These simple activities can clear your mind and energize your body.
We have seen so many patients come into the office with symptoms of “cabin-fever.” The isolating COVID measures that were put into place for our well-being, had many unintended, but expected consequences. Patients are coming in with many stress related disorders, including chest discomfort and shortness of breath. However, simply by coming in — getting evaluated, perhaps getting an EKG or chest x-ray, and talking with us — gave them reassurance and made them feel better. For many, that was all they needed.
Intervention with telephone calls and video tele-visits let us practice the “art of medicine” remotely. We remain open during this pandemic and request you bring your own facial covering when coming to the office. We are still doing “drive-by” COVID-19 screening and taking temperatures and symptom checks at the front door before allowing you entrance inside our building. These actions protect our patients and staff.
COVID-19 has been very personal for us too. Caleb Youngblood, PA-C, AAHIVS, was infected, as well as four other Be Well staff members. Everyone has fully recovered and are back to work. Caleb has taken a particular interest in COVID-19. He keeps us updated all the time and has become our “local expert.” He is antibody positive — we will explain what that means later on. He contributed substantially to this update. Also, he is working from home doing telemedical visits, until he fully recovered. We all appreciate Caleb so much. All of our staff are heroes!
There has been much discussion surrounding testing for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus we commonly refer to as COVID-19. We want to make sure that the different types of testing are clear to you.
Using a combination of testing mentioned above we can get a good sense of whether or not people ARE infected with COVID-19, RECENTLY infected, or if they have NEVER had it. The combination of these tests is useful. They help us take the necessary steps to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 and to eventually return to some resemblance of “normalcy”. It is important to understand that any one test can not tell the entire story. Antibody tests have been on the news lately. Antibody tests can not predict, nor were they designed to, identify whether or not a person is contagious to others.
The swab test looking for the virus itself was the first test that came into existence. It is pretty much standardized and accurate. The antibody tests are currently coming to market with emergency authorization from the FDA for use. It has been reported that these tests may not be as accurate as we would like them to be at the present time. They will get better in time. Medicine is not an exact science. Scientific truths constantly change with new information. Determining what test(s) to perform needs to be individually considered. Antibody tests, at this time, may be more reasonable for research or epidemiology studies of a population's rate of COVID-19 infection.
Every situation is different and we are here to determine what the best choice is for you when it comes to ordering tests. It has yet to be determined if you are antibody IgG positive, how long or how effective that immunity would be. Immunity from other COVID type infections is usually about 4-5 months. Some antibodies last a lifetime. Until there is a vaccination or data demonstrating lifetime immunity having the IgG antibodies, whether you are antibody positive or not, you need to practice universal precautions as discussed in our last update to protect yourself.
There have been some new symptoms added to the original list of fever, cough, and shortness of breath for COVID-19 to be on watch for. We’ve often seen these new associated symptoms in our patients. They include: loss of taste and/or smell, body aches, headaches, fatigue, shaking, chills, and blue fingers or toes.
Take care of yourselves and those around you. If you have any questions or concerns, please ask us. Also…reach out to your friends and family. Let them know how you are doing and ask the same of them.
To Your Good Health… We Remain
Another week goes by, as we seem to settle into this COVID-19 pandemic. Like 9/11 things may never be the same once this has passed. Who would have ever thought you would have to take off your shoes and be scanned before boarding an aircraft before 2001? Or carry on a bottle of water? We will get through COVID-19, but it will be a little different when we reach the other side and find the new normal. Perhaps we will make lemonade from lemons and be better off for the next time.
“AIDS will be resolved one day, I’m confident of this, but society will always face epidemics to replace it.”
We have always had epidemics. Whether it be Tuberculosis, Syphilis, SARS, Leprosy, Cholera, and the list goes on. What we don’t know is what group or groups will be affected next. With AIDS/HIV in the 1980s, it was the LGBTQ community. COVID-19 may have more serious consequences for the African American population. It’s a moving target!
Staying home this weekend, I had some time on my hands. I came across some old files hidden away. I found some slides I made from the 1980’s. Back then, I made my own slides using my 35mm camera. I would take pictures of the information that I typed on a piece of paper and then took the film to the drug store to get it processed into slides. Wow, how things have changed! I came across a slide I made years ago titled “Mathematics of Disease”. I do believe this equation is timeless, and certainly holds true today. Let me explain the picture above detailing this equation:
Health (or lack of)
Susceptibility (the numerator) --
The likelihood or liability to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing.
Susceptibility increases when people don’t take care of themselves: medical problems not optimally controlled, no exercise, eating poorly, smoking, poor sleep, lack of barriers or increased exposure to pathogens, stress, and so on. Each factor synergistically increases susceptibility to disease.
The ability to not be affected by something, especially adversely.
Resistance is increased with vaccinations, exercise, eating nutritiously, positive mental attitude, getting enough sleep, and general measures to stay healthy. Resistance is reduced with a compromised immune system, co-infections, malignancies, poor health, general inflammation, sleep deprivation, and stress.
Environmental Factors =
Any factor (living or non-living) that influences living organisms.
Prevalence of a germ (COVID-19) in the population is certainly the first environmental factor that comes to mind. Other factors include overcrowding, the air we breathe, aging, water pollution, cleanliness, co-existing diseases, and environmental stress to name a few.
It’s not one particular item in this equation that defines health or lack of it, but many. You should do what you can do for each part of the equation to assist yourself in staying well. Wear facial coverings. Keep your distance when around others. Wash your hands often. Stay active. Do some deep breathing. Eat better. Reduce your stress loads in ways you can. Each and every positive action you take to increase your resistance will shift the equation in your favor. Each and every action you take to decrease your susceptibility will help keep you healthy. COVID-19 testing is great; however, you can test negative on a Monday and turn positive on Tuesday. This test is useful for diagnosing current COVID-19, but not useful in predicting future infections.
When the antibody is approved, after demonstrating the right specificity and sensitivity of the test, that may be useful to reduce susceptibility and environmental factors by knowing who is immune and who isn’t. There is no one test or action a person can take to totally eliminate risk. This is true for everything we do from taking a walk to sky diving. It’s a balancing act with decisions made by each individual, hopefully with a good data base for guidance, in making the best decision for yourself.
We used to call it “Universal Precautions.” That’s what the medical professional would do by treating every person the same way regardless of knowing if they had a communicable disease or not. The provider would protect themselves as if everyone they came in contact with was infectious. The practice of universal precautions still applies. That’s what risk reduction is about. Whether it be HIV, STD’s, colds, coughs, staph infections, or anything else, appropriate preventive protections should be put in place all the time. It’s your responsibility to be knowledgeable. The mathematics of disease will change as information evolves and this is occurring at a rapid pace. What we think is true today may not be true tomorrow. Vaccines will maximize resistance. Hopefully an effective one for the COVID-19 virus will be available as soon as possible. Vaccines reduce susceptibility and environmental factors by increasing resistance. None of these measures, by itself, will be the solution; however, a combination of them most likely will.
As for the Be Well Medical Center, I’m proud to work with a group of medical heroes. We come to work everyday with kindness, gentility, patience, compassion, and smiles. My staff puts themselves at risk everyday and are helping the lives of our patients. Evening clinics are still suspended although we are extending back our daytime clinic hours to 5 P.M. beginning Monday, April 27. Patients are being screened at the front door for COVID-19 symptoms and temperature. We appreciate everyone arriving with their own facial covers. We wish you well, and are here for you during these difficult times!
To Your Good Health…We Remain!
We hope this email finds you well. We appreciate all the great feedback we’ve received regarding our weekly email outreach to you during this pandemic. We thank each of you who have shared words of encouragement to us.
We are here for you and again seeing patients in the office. We are also back to accepting new patients. We continue to do “drive-by” COVID testing for our patients only. We are treating those who are mild to moderately infected and referring to our specialists those requiring more intensive care. Those patients potentially infectious will be screened by a health care provider before entering the office. If you do come to our office, we request you bring a facial cover and maintain a 6-feet distance from others whenever possible. Everyone entering the building, including our staff, will have their temperature taken at the front door.
We are managing more cases of COVID-19 than we could ever have expected. Our team of health care providers are doing a superb job of reaching out to our COVID-19 infected patients daily on the telephone to see how they are doing. I believe we have truly kept many of our patients out of the hospital; who may have ended up there, if not for our dedicated and aggressive approach. Additionally, Med-Shop pharmacy in the building has worked hard to find hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and Zithromax to treat our patients when necessary. This COVID-19 scenario reminds me of the 1980’s when many physicians refused or did not want to treat AIDS patients, just like COVID-19 now, for a variety of reasons (some not so good). We have always offered compassionate care to those living with HIV and that decision made me become a better person and primary care physician. Our team is committed to manage your care through the COVID-19 crisis.
We continue to perform COVID-19 nasal swabs and usually get results in 1-3 days, depending on their backlog. I’m still being the “squeaky wheel” with Abbott Diagnostics to get the rapid 15-minute test kits in our office. When we get them, we will be able to give results in minutes instead of days. They will not release them to us yet, but we are not giving up hope to get them soon. It’s frustrating that we are one of the few primary care offices with the correct equipment to run these tests; but can’t get the test kits. I will not stop trying to get them as quickly as I can. I even offered to loan my equipment to a center that is testing to help them out. It’s shameful my testing platform sits idle.
I would like to explain testing for COVID-19 as it can be confusing, especially when the antibody test is expected to be released shortly. The current nasal swab test detects whether the COVID-19 virus is present in your body or not. A positive test means the virus is present in your body. A negative test means that no COVID-19 virus was found. This test can also be referred to as a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
The antibody test should be approved by the FDA soon. Currently this antibody test is not approved for use. I’ve heard of one urgent care center doing them for $50.00 as a “drive-by”. I don’t understand how this can be and at this time I personally don’t trust it. I heard Beaumont Hospital is doing a clinical trial on the antibody test, but have no other information on that at this time. If the antibody test is positive, that means the person has had the COVID virus. The antibody test does not indicate whether or not the person currently has the virus.
The two tests combined, nasal swab (PCR) and blood antibody tests, when used together will be very useful in determining a person’s status regarding COVID. If someone is both COVID-19 antibody positive, and nasal smear (PCR) positive, that would mean they are recently infected and has not yet cleared the virus. These tests are very familiar and similar to HIV testing, treatment, and prevention programs that we have been utilizing with success for years.
Now is not the time to practice those five deadliest words “Maybe It Will Go Away”. If you have any health concerns, lets manage them early on. What we need right now, all of us, is to have plenty of compassion, kindness, gentility, patience, and smiles. Do what you can do…eat right, move around and stay active the best you can, check in on friends and family, and keep a good attitude!
To Your Good Health…We Remain
We hope all of our patients are staying home and sheltering in. We, at Be Well Medical Center, are adjusting to our “new normal” and operating better than we ever could have expected. We’re delivering excellent health care on the computer via telemedicine or telephone for those unable to connect online. The process has gotten much easier and now we can simply send you a text message before your scheduled telemedical visit; and if you reply to that text you will be connected automatically instead of going through our portal system.
BY DIRECTIVE OF THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO PERSONALLY SEE YOUR DOCTOR UNLESS ABSOLUTELY URGENT. (cdc.gov)
We have some telephone lines and medical visits being managed by our staff from their homes to limit exposure to COVID in our office. We are all doing well, especially our employees who had COVID. Most importantly, our care for immediate concerns has not been interrupted and is being handled immediately. In fact, many patients are commenting that it’s faster access to us than ever before.
Per CDC guidelines, we are trying not to spend our precious time writing “back to work” notes. The CDC has declared a medical emergency and as such work notes should not be expected. We have extended no foot traffic visits for another week until April 20, 2020. However, don’t delay in reaching out to us as we have been very creative and are able to handle most concerns remotely. We are now accepting new patients again for telemedical visits as our situation has stabilized.
Again, requesting your refills through your pharmacist electronically saves us time and gets this done more quickly.
We also are able to manage COVID-19 efficiently and keep you out of the Hospital more often than not. We continue to do “drive by testing” for our patients and provide early treatment with Hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax when indicated. Our network of Specialists has been diligent in communicating with us as the need arises and quickly seeing our patients with our referral in the hospital as appropriate.
On a somewhat disappointing note, we have not been able to get the 15-minute test kits in the office (yet). We have the correct devices to do the tests, but not the test kits. They are being given to hospitals and nursing homes only. I have added my letter to Abbott Laboratories regarding this concern at the end of this communication for you to read.
We will get through this together. CDC guidance recommends everyone going outside for essentials wear any type of cloth over their mouths and noses. This offers some protection to you and those around you. It is a recommendation at this time and not an order.
We are here for you. Again, I’m so proud of my entire staff for giving over 100%. Thank you for all the warm thoughts and praises we have been receiving. They mean a lot to us!
To Your Good Health…We Remain
Copy of My Letter to Abbott
April 6, 2020
Thank you for taking your precious time and joining me on a telephone call this afternoon. There is a problem to be dealt with regarding distribution of the Rapid COVID-19 kits and it requires immediate attention. I’m not sure how to do it, and request escalation to the correct individuals that can solve it for me; and for other providers like me. As I have made you aware, I have a medical practice in Berkley, three miles north of Detroit. I have been in practice since 1980. I’m a board-certified family doctor, a certified research professional conducting many HIV clinical trials, and an accredited HIV specialist with the American Academy of HIV Medicine. I tell you this because my medical experience is relevant to our current COVID-19 pandemic. I started my practice at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I direct four medical providers and together we manage over 1000 HIV patients. Additionally, we have many other patients that are high risk for COVID progression. I feel like I’m reliving the AIDS crisis all over again without the stigma or prejudice of the LGBTQ population. If doctors such as I don’t ACT-UP, nothing will happen to help assist my population of patients.
Just like in the 1980’s my clinic has not shirked away from our duty of taking care of our patients during this pandemic. We have been doing at least 50 telemedical visits daily from sick or worried patients. We do drive-byes for COVID tests of which we currently get the results back in 2-3 days. Six of my medical staff have become infected with COVID, yet most of them are currently working remotely from home. I rotate 2 medical providers working remotely from home and two in the office caring for patient on the telephone or computer. We are closed for foot traffic. We have been able to manage our own patients with immediate service. We are managing well over 40 patients with COVID and the list keeps growing. I am most proud of our response, probably not much different from many other primary care providers, especially those who lived through the early days of HIV. I’m not complaining, but I’ve learned from the past that I have to advocate for my patients. When the times get tough the tough get going and there needs to be change in the distribution of the rapid COVID tests.
Abbott has made a blanket “cookie cutter” decision to not provide the test kits to primary care clinics and only to hospitals, including designated hot spots. I understand there are priorities, however there are also exceptions that must be made. “The horse is out of the barn and to do these tests strictly in the hospitals is simply wrong. I want to augment the hospital system and not replace it. I want the opportunity to practice prevention and early detection to help stop the spread and to treat early to prevent hospitalizations, ventilators, and mortality.
The problem is this. The 15-minute Abbott platform has just been released to do COVID-19 testing. My clinic is fortunate that we already have the correct lab equipment in place to run these potential lifesaving tests. All we need is the kits to accomplish this, yet I was just told I can’t receive any. Any clinic such as mine should be considered a priority. Patients prefer their own doctor that they are comfortable with and would seek medical attention sooner rather than later to wait in a dreaded line at the hospital.
The fact of the matter is I’m seeing plenty of these patients right now. Hospitals are the worst place to be unless they are necessary. We status our patients from mild to severe. We call them daily to update their conditions. I’m already prescribing hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax to the moderate intensity patients and sending to the hospital the severe cases.
Providing care at this grass root level is one of the best places for testing for so many reasons. Abbott, or whoever makes the decisions doesn’t seem to get this priority. Rapid COVID testing may not be right for every office, but it is for my clinic. Any request must be individually considered immediately. Lives are at stake.
I’m more than willing to be part of the solution. Please respond to me as soon as possible.
Paul Benson, D.O.
The COVID-19 crisis is surreal. We are already managing more COVID patients than I ever expected to. It was only a few weeks ago that everything appeared so normal. COVID-19 has affected us all in so many different ways (physically, mentally, economically, and more). When we get to the other side of this pandemic, I would like to think the world will be better off and we have learned to be a more compassionate and kinder place. This crisis has made me think back to the similarities from the 1980’s AIDS epidemic. I was a brand-new young doctor at the time. Caring for HIV patients since 1980 has influenced my life in so many ways. It made me a better physician. Perhaps COVID-19 will do the same for others.
We have been serving our patients with telemedical visits and “drive by” COVID-19 testing since the onset. Patient response has been nothing short of amazing. Our patients have been eager to use their smartphones and laptops to connect with us. We are overwhelmed, but handling our situation well mainly because of a set of special health care providers and a dedicated medical staff of which I am so very proud of at the Be Well Medical Center. We, like so many others, are seeing health care professionals, including first responders, step up in harm’s way to help others. I find it interesting that this is happening at a time when the public was losing some trust with the health care system. Hopefully that will change.
We are extending our decision to not see patients inside the office until from April 6 to April 20, 2020. This does not include our clinical research patients who can come in for their study visits as previously scheduled, unless they are not feeling well. We have been able to evaluate all of our patients in need through telemedicine visits and that will continue. Routine wellness visits have been cancelled for the time being. Hopefully, we will resume some type of regular operations of seeing patients in the office on a limited basis after April 13. We will keep you updated.
We are fortunate (or lucky) that I upgraded our in-office influenza testing platform 3 months ago. The new equipment that we already have will be able to do the 15 minutes point of care COVID results. We have ordered the COVID-19 kits and were told we will have them within two weeks. Our supply of N95 masks was running low and we just received a new supply of them. Things are looking up and we appreciate the long-time relationship with our vendors in order to accomplish this.
Again, to help us help you, please request any prescription refills through your pharmacist electronically. Use the HEALOW portal when possible to schedule telemedical visits or manage other requests. We have been responding to our patients very quickly and do not expect that to change.
I have often been asked the following questions:
When can recovering COVID-19 patients leave isolation, and do they need “return-to-work” letters?
As of March 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes two options: one with testing and one without. cdc.gov
• For patients with access to testing, the CDC recommends they remain in isolation until they have an improvement of respiratory symptoms (cough and shortness of breath), no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications), and two negative test results from consecutive nasopharyngeal swabs taken at least 24 hours apart. Patients who tested positive for COVID-19 but never showed symptoms should wait until it’s been seven days since their positive test result.
• For patients without access to testing, the CDC recommends they stay in isolation until it’s been at least seven days since their symptoms first appeared and 72 hours since their symptoms resolved.
Some patients may request notes for their employer, either confirming they have tested positive for COVID-19 or confirming they have been cleared to return to work. The CDC’s guidance, as of March 21, is that employers should not require such documentation (www.cdc.gov) because health care providers will be extremely busy during this national public health emergency.
To Your Good Health…We Remain.