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COVID-19 Asked and Answered

Updated: March 24, 2020

As Coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., Lee Health wants to keep you aware and informed on how COVID-19 is affecting our community, how Lee Health is prepared to keep Southwest Florida safe during this outbreak and what you can do to stay healthy.  

ABOUT CORONAVIRUS AND COVID-19

Q: What is the coronavirus?

A: Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory illness ranging from mild to severe. There are now seven known coronaviruses that can affect humans, and four of them are relatively common causing cold-like symptoms. The strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have originated sometime in late 2019.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: The virus can cause symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat. Symptoms appear between 2 and 14 days after initial exposure.

Q: How is COVID-19 spread?

A: COVID-19 is spread person-to-person by close contact with an infected person. The more symptoms a person shows the more likely they are to spread the virus. In some circumstances the virus can live on a surface and be spread by touching the surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Q: What is a pandemic?

A: The World Health Organization loosely defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” Declaring a pandemic has nothing to do with any changes to the characteristics of a disease, but instead speaks to concerns about its geographic spread.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Q: How can I keep myself and my family safe?

A: Handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. Handwashing instructions from the CDC can be found by clicking here. You should also clean frequently utilized areas, always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home if you are sick.

Q: Should I wear a mask when in a public space?

A: Generally speaking, wearing a mask is not necessary when going about your day-to-day life. In fact, masks can actually increase the risk of catching a disease. They can become uncomfortable, which usually means people touch their mouth and nose more often to adjust the mask. But if you are sick, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of germs to other people.

Q: Is telehealth a good option to be screened for COVID-19?

A: Yes! Services like Lee TeleHealth allow you to be screened via a computer, tablet or smart phone without leaving your home. This is both convenient and the best possible way to avoid spreading illness to others. Lee TeleHealth physicians and providers are trained on proper COVID-19 protocols, and if they think you require testing they will walk you through your next steps. Lee TeleHealth is free for all users for as long as this public health crisis exists. To learn more visit: http://www.leetelehealth.org

Q: When should I self-quarantine?

A: At this time, if you develop any symptoms of respiratory illness you should self-quarantine and call your primary care physician or utilize a service like Lee TeleHealth for further guidance.

Q: How are cases of COVID-19 reported to the community?

A: Positive tests performed by FDOH are reported as “presumptive positive” cases until officially confirmed by the CDC. It takes 24-48 hours to run the genetic test, and once FDOH receives a presumptive positive test result, that result is reported to the community.

Q: I think I could have COVID-19. How can I be tested?

A: If you have reason to believe you have COVID-19 disease, you should call your primary care provider (PCP). Your PCP will evaluate your symptoms and arrange to have you tested if needed.  Anyone whose doctor orders a COVID-19 test will be able to have their sample collected and sent to the lab for testing.

Q: I just returned from international travel. Do I need to be tested?

A: If you are returning from an area with an outbreak of COVID-19 the CDC is recommending you self-monitor for 14 days immediately upon returning from your travels, even if asymptomatic. If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath during those 14 days contact your health care professional and mention your recent travel. Your provider will determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. If you have had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from an impacted area, you should call a health care professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel. 

Q: Should I cancel my travel plans?

A: We recommend following the CDC’s travel guidelines, which can be found by clicking here.

Q: Does weather impact the spread of the virus?

A: Unlike the flu, health experts do not yet know if seasonal changes will impact the way the virus spreads.

Q: What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

A: Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease, but are not showing symptoms. In this case, our employees are asked to stay at home for 14 days to monitor their health and see if they start showing symptoms. During this time, they take their temperature twice a day and check in with our employee health department.  Just because someone is quarantined does not mean they will become sick, but is done out of caution after exposure.

Q: What does an isolation room in the hospital room look like?

A: Isolation rooms look almost identical to any hospital room you have seen before. The big difference is that they have a negative airflow ventilation system. This system allows fresh air into the room while not allowing contaminated air to escape. Lee Health has 103 isolation rooms throughout the health system.

Q: What is social distancing?

A: States and communities around the country are taking steps to reduce human contact to slow the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “social distancing” is a public health practice that encourages avoiding large crowds or group gatherings

The goal of social distancing is to protect individuals, especially the most vulnerable, by slowing down the transmission of the virus. Measures, like staying home, limiting our contact with others and avoiding people who are coughing or sneezing, help reduce the rate of spread and the number of people who will eventually get infected. These measures protect those who are most at risk if they do get infected. 

Q: What can I do to help the community?

A: As the community as a whole practices social distancing to help prevent the spread of disease, we have had to cancel numerous blood drives. All blood donated at Lee Health blood centers stays here to help our patients. The cancelation of these drives has put us in desperate need of life-saving donations. You can help out by calling our blood center at 239-343-2333 to find the location closest to you and schedule a donation appointment.

LEE HEALTH PREPAREDNESS

Q: How is Lee Health prepared for coronavirus?

A:  Lee Health experts have precautions in place if a patient with COVID-19 comes into one of our health care settings. Every hospital has plans, protocols, and appropriate supplies and equipment in place to care for patients with serious infectious diseases. All clinical staff are trained in standard infection control procedures.

Q: How are patients screened for coronavirus?

A:  If a patient is suspected of having the COVID-19, we take the following steps:

  • Screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms travel history and potential exposure
  • Isolate a patient with possible exposure to COVID-19
  • Protect the safety of caregivers and staff by providing appropriate information and personal protection equipment (PPE)
  • Provide any emergency care needed to stabilize a patient isolated due to possible COVID-19 exposure
  • Contact local and state health departments and the CDC to determine plans for testing, and if the case is confirmed.

Q: Are there any visitation restrictions at Lee Health hospitals?

A: The current visitation policy can be found by clicking here.

Q: How are employees protected when treating potential or confirmed COVID-19 patients?

A: Employees and clinicians who interact with patients suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19 follow all CDC safety protocols and are outfitted in the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE).

Q: I was a patient at a hospital where a COVID-19 was treated, should I be concerned?

A: Rigorous safety precautions are used when treating a patient with an infectious disease. It is unlikely that you would have been exposed to the virus simply because you were admitted to the same hospital.

Q: How is Lee Health making sure everyone is tested who needs to be?

A: We are opening mobile collection sites across Lee County to make it as easy as possible for any patient who has a test ordered by their physician or provider to have their sample collected and return to home quarantine. After a test is ordered, your physician or provider will help you make an appointment. Doctors collecting the samples are in full personal protection equipment for their protection. There are three important things to remember before coming to a mobile collection site:

  • These are collection sites, not testing sites. The patient’s sample will be taken via a nasal swab and then sent to a lab for testing.
  • Patients MUST have their test ordered by their physician or provider.
  • Patients MUST make an appointment before coming to the collection site.

Q: How is Lee Health protecting those in the Emergency Room from exposure?

A: We are installing mobile triage units outside of our emergency departments (ED). All patients who come to the ED by means other than EMS or helicopter will be promptly screened for symptoms of respiratory illness. Patients who show symptoms will be quarantined in a separate waiting area until a negative airflow isolation room is available for them.