Scenic Rivers Provider Messages
Written by Eric Scrivner, MD
In an effort to provide you with up-to-date information, please know that this was written initially on 3/18/2020 and updated on 3/23/2020. We strive to provide you with the most current information, but acknowledge that our top priority is providing patient care, and as this pandemic progresses our website may not be updated as frequently as we would like. We encourage you to visit the MN Department of Health and CDC websites for the most current available information on COVID-19.
***If you feel like you need to be seen by a medical provider, especially if you have worsening shortness of breath, CALL THE CLINIC OR HOSPITAL where you plan to seek care BEFORE coming in.***
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is a type of virus called a coronavirus. It is a pandemic, which is like an epidemic, but much worse and involves many more people across the globe. Symptoms are typically fever, cough, and shortness of breath, but can include other symptoms as well.
If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath:
If you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call your healthcare provider. If you have worsening shortness of breath, they may advise you to be seen by a medical provider, but CALL FIRST. If your symptoms are manageable at home with rest, medications for fever, and fluids, that is ideal. If you have a fever, avoid contact with others and stay home for at least 7 days after the onset of your symptoms or 72 hours after your last fever, whichever is later. The 72 hour clock starts only when you are no longer taking fever-reducing medication like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
If you don’t have symptoms:
Avoid people anyway. We should assume that COVID-19 is in most communities at this time because testing is so limited and, even when we are able to test, results are taking about week to return. Practice social distancing and avoid contact with people you don’t live with. Don’t travel unnecessarily, don’t get together with your friends in person, and just stay home as much as possible. The whole point of social distancing is to minimize how often you are within 6 feet of another human being. Use Facetime, Skype, or old-fashioned phone calls to spend time with loved ones. If you’ve been in an airport or around large groups of people in the last two weeks, you are at a very high risk of infection and need to stay away from others for two weeks. If you go out in public, such as a quick run to the grocery store, try to stay 6 feet away from others as much as possible. Do not touch your face, and wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand-sanitizer prior to entering the store and again immediately after leaving, and wash your hands immediately when you return home.
If exposed to someone with known COVID-19:
Self quarantine – this means stay home. Avoid contact with others for 14 days after exposure, this is enough time to find out whether or not you will become sick with the virus. Limit exposure to other members of your household. Wash your hands frequently. Don’t have visitors into your home. Stay 6 feet away from others in your household. Don’t share towels, water bottles, or eating utensils. Call your clinic or go to the Minnesota Department of Health’s website for more information.
Testing for the virus:
It would be great if we could test everyone with a cough, but we simply don’t have enough tests to do that. This information is always changing, so check the Minnesota Department of Health’s website or call your clinic for up to date information. Currently, if you don’t have symptoms, you won’t be tested. If you have symptoms but are not severely ill, you will probably not be tested unless you are a health care provider or live in a nursing home. If you’ve been in a high-risk situation (exposure to a person with known COVID-19, air travel, etc.) but do not have symptoms, you will not be tested. Our testing is based on test availability and the Minnesota Department of Health’s recommendations. Please call the health care facility where you intend to seek care before you come in if you think you need to be seen.
Flatten the curve:
If there are a large number of new COVID-19 cases in a short amount of time, our ability as a health care system to take care of people will be overrun. This means we will not be able to take care of all of the people with severe COVID-19, but it also means that if someone has a non-COVID-19 related problem during peak COVID-19 time, there may not be an available hospital bed or a ventilator that could save their life. This applies to heart attacks, appendicitis, car accidents, and severe bacterial infections—there may not be enough medical resources to adequately treat these conditions if we our hospitals are already full. If we have the same total number of COVID-19 cases but we are able to “flatten the curve,” or spread this number out over the next 3-6 months it helps make sure we have the resources we need to take care of you. Flattening the curve is about more than controlling COVID-19; it’s about decreasing unnecessary deaths because we have run out of resources.
Number of confirmed cases:
The numbers and locations that are talked about for “confirmed COVID-19 cases” vastly underestimate how widespread this disease is. Please act as if it the virus is already in your community—limit contact with others, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and stay home. Remember that, in most cases, confirmed cases that are reported by the state were tested a full week before their test results were known, so we are looking at statistics that are already a week old—we do not have real-time information on how widespread this pandemic is in Minnesota or the United States.
Don’t panic, be smart:
Most of the recommended actions above are meant to keep our health care system working for those who truly need it. Many people will get this infection in the coming months and will be able to treat themselves and recover at home. COVID-19 is not a conspiracy, it’s not “just like flu,” and it is very much a big deal – but it becomes more manageable when we’re smart about how we deal with it. Don’t ignore the seriousness of this pandemic, take simple steps to stay away from others, wash your hands, and we will continue to work hard to provide you the health care you need.
Eric Scrivner, MD