Greetings IFC family!
We are reaching out because we know this is a confusing and anxiety provoking time for many of us. 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 together the following information to explain what you can expect from us over the next few weeks to months.
As you are likely aware, several Massachusetts residents have tested positive for COVID-19 (the illness caused by the novel Coronavirus). We expect more cases will be identified as testing of suspected cases expands over the coming days. As your physicians, we are committed to staying up to date on developments and changes, so that we can provide you with the most accurate and timely information possible. We are routinely receiving updates from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-public-health), the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the CDC (www.CDC.gov). If you have questions or concerns, we strongly urge you to visit and utilize these resources.
This is not a time to panic, but we do all need to institute some changes in our day to day lives to try to slow the spread of the virus. Yes, it may be inconvenient, but it is necessary. We may not be able to prevent a large portion of the population from getting this infection, and the majority of people who are infected will do just fine. However, it is of UTMOST importance that we slow the spread so that huge numbers of people are not infected at the same time, which would overwhelm our hospitals’ ability to care for the segment of people who need hospital level care due to severe illness. We ask that everyone practice “social distancing” and avoid non-essential large gatherings or travel, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and stay home if you have a fever or cough. This is the best way for us to ensure that there will be adequate health care resources for folks who do get very ill from the virus. The WHO website has accurate advice to the public, which they update regularly, found here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.
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.
As of March 9, we are asking those who are looking to schedule an appointment to first call or message us on Spruce or Elation. We will reach out to you for more information, as there are many issues that we can help address without a face to face visit. If you are feeling ill and believe you need to be evaluated, we will assess the nature and severity of the situation and help make the best decision as to where you should be evaluated.
The key points of the triage system are highlighted here:
- If you have mild, isolated, upper respiratory symptoms (runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sore throat) and no fever or cough, and have not been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, nor recently returned from travel to a high transmission country (China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan) or the Northwest US, 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 Dr. Cohen or Dr. Cunningham, though, to talk through things and you should notify us if your symptoms change.
- If you have lower respiratory symptoms (deep cough or shortness of breath) and/or fever, Christine 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.
- Currently we cannot test you for Covid-19, all testing as of today is still being done through the Department of Public Health. We are working with our lab vendor to confirm the exact specifics of when commercial testing will be available (like pricing and where the testing will be available).
- Until we have clear direction from Quest and/or the CDC 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.
I cannot be more explicit than this: if we come into contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19, all Infinity Family Care 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 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 IFC family healthy as we all see our routines upended a bit by this virus.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions or reach out.
Wendy Cohen, MD and David Cunningham, MD