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.