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Reducing COVID-19 Exposure for People At-Risk of Complications

3/12/2020 – As we continue to monitor the progression of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and influenza (flu), our first concern is always the safety and health of our patients, clients, and employees. In particular, we are focused on what we can do as a healthcare system and a community to help keep those most at risk of complications safe from infections.

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is now able to administer diagnostic tests for the coronavirus, which we expect will result in a significant increase in the number of known cases. At this point, testing criteria are set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and ODH.  We expect testing to be available to more of the general public in the next 1-2 weeks.  To date there have been four identified cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, there are currently 24 people under investigation with lab results pending, and 255 people under public health supervision due to possible exposure during travel. (You can monitor these data points on the Ohio Department of Health website.)

Currently the risk of contracting coronavirus still remains very low in Ohio. The flu, which has resulted in 950-1,200 hospitalizations per week for the last four weeks, continues to pose a much greater risk to Ohioans.

For most people, coronavirus infection, like the flu, will not pose significant health problems. However, we must all take precautions in order to prevent passing the virus to people at increased risk for complications.

Who is at increased risk of complications from coronavirus and flu?

  • People over age 60
  • People with chronic disease (HIV, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease)
  • People living with HIV of any age who have uncontrolled or longstanding HIV, previous low CD4 counts, or a history of opportunistic infection

(Please note: People with controlled HIV and CD4 counts above 200 without a history of significant opportunistic infections or other chronic disease should fare about the same with coronavirus as people of the same age with a negative HIV status.)

What do if you are at increased risk

If you fit any of the at-risk categories above and feel totally fine, review the CDC website on higher risk patients to find out more about precautions you can take to reduce your risk of complications.

If you fit any of the at-risk categories above and start to have shortness of breath or cough AND fever or fatigue, call your healthcare provider immediately and tell them about your symptoms.

Sick Patient/Client Visit Procedures

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, please follow our precautions and call before coming to an Equitas Health location.

When to consider going to the ER

We encourage Equitas Health patients to call us if you are concerned about flu-like symptoms.

Only go to the ER for:

  • Fevers over 102 degrees that don’t respond to over-the-counter fever reducers

AND one of the following:

  • Worsening chest pain despite taking over the counter pain medication OR
  • Cough associated with bloody sputum OR
  • Worsening shortness of breath

If you need to go to the ER, tell medical staff as soon as you arrive that you are concerned about coronavirus.

If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have symptoms for COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before emergency medical services arrive.

Precautions for protecting those at increased risk

If you live with, care for, work with, or have regular contact with people who are at increased risk, you can protect them by following the precautions you would take if you were sick.

  • Frequently wash hands with the WHO handwashing method for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Frequently wash surfaces and handheld objects with alcohol.
  • Do not touch your face.
  • Stay away if you are coughing or sneezing or have a fever.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and dispose of tissues directly into trash.

Regarding HIV/STI Testing

If you have a fever or respiratory symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath, please do not come to our offices for HIV/STI testing. Some alternatives to in-person testing:

  • Order a free home HIV test kit from org.
  • Chat with one of our HIV/STI experts at 1-800-332-2437 or org.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms that may indicate you have an STI, call one of our medical offices to review your symptoms over the phone.

For More Information

World Health Organization: Helpful advice and mythbusters for the general public.

Ohio Department of Health: Coronavirus monitoring in Ohio.