Practice the Five Core Principles
Are you wondering how non-infected people can stay safe and protect themselves? David Vastine, MD, is an internal medicine physician at Great Smokies Family Medicine, a Covenant Medical Group practice. He advises following five core principles outlined by the CDC to stay safe. These steps can help people avoid spreading and contracting any communicable disease:
- Practice social distancing when “out and about”
- Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
- Stay home if you are sick and avoid high-risk areas when traveling
- Wear a mask
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
Dr. Vastine says, “In areas where it is difficult to practice social distancing, such as shopping indoors, it is prudent to wear a mask and limit trips out of the house to those that are necessary. It is easier to practice social distancing with outdoor activities.”
What to Expect at Your Upcoming Appointment
Great Smokies Family Medicine and LeConte Medical Center have screening stations at facility entrances. Patients can expect screening questions, temperature checks, and to receive a mask if the person has not brought one from home. All patients, visitors, and staff are required to wear masks. To conserve masks for our staff, we encourage patients to bring a mask from home.
If a patient or a visitor who accompanies a patient screens as high risk for potential COVID-19, they are asked to return to their vehicle and contact the office for further instructions on how to proceed with their visit. Medical practitioners look for these main symptoms that may indicate COVID-19: a fever of 100.5 or higher, dry and nonproductive cough, and shortness of breath. Dr. Vastine notes that as we have learned more about the virus and secondary symptoms that it can cause, the symptom listhas grown to include nausea, diarrhea, and rash.
In some cases, depending on the health issue and patient’s history, telehealth is an option. Telehealth facilitate secure online visits between patients and medical providers. Dr. Vastine says it doesn’t always replace an in-person appointment, but in some cases a telehealth visit may be the preferred option to provide care.
What If You Are Experiencing COVID-19 Symptoms?
Stay home. Dr. Vastine and the healthcare community urge anyone experiencing dry cough or other symptoms they suspect to be COVID-19-related to quarantine at home and contact their physician’s office for further instructions regarding medications or treatment. If you feel ill but do not suspect COVID-19, the advice remains the same: stay home and contact your physician for advice.
What If You Need Emergency Care?
During the pandemic, it’s easy to forget that emergencies like heart attacks and strokes still happen. LeConte Medical Center continues to treat patients with life-threatening conditions every day. All patients and staff who come to our emergency department are screened for COVID-19 symptoms. If you are experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19, call your primary care provider for assistance about your specific situation. But in a life-threatening medical emergency, the hospital is the safest place to be — don’t delay needed medical care!
Should You Wear a Mask?
Dr. Vastine recommends, “In close confines, in proximity to others where social distancing can be difficult or when attending an appointment with your doctor, dentist, or other health care provider, I recommend wearing a mask.” Remember, you may be an asymptomatic carrier who can spread the virus to others.
Don’t Delay Regular Medical Care
If you’ve missed a doctor’s appointment over the last few months, now is the time to reschedule. It’s important to see your primary care provider for your annual physical and management of chronic health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Don’t let them go unmonitored— delaying care can have dangerous consequences to your health. You should also see your provider if you experience any sudden changes with your health.
If you must go out in public, Dr. Vastine says, “The main things people can do are promote good hygiene, social distance, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently, sanitize surfaces such as shopping cart handles, wear a mask when appropriate, and try to avoid close quarters when possible.”