Going Home For The Holidays? Take These Covid- 19 Precautions

Everyone looks forward to the holidays. From feasting on a turkey with your family at Thanksgiving, the excited mobs at crowded stores trying to pick up the best gifts during the Black Friday sales, outings with your friends and Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year parties. This year however, things will be a little different. With the spread of the Coronavirus, large gatherings are not advisable. Many people are shifting to virtual gatherings to stay safe. Still, if you’re planning to celebrate it with your people back home, here are some precautions we advise you to take. 

PRECAUTIONS WHILE TRAVELING

Traveling is a big risk during the holidays because of the huge crowds that can’t be avoided. If you’re traveling by flight, always wear a mask. Use disinfectant wipes to wipe down tray tables and seats. Avoid crowded entry and exit points, instead wait till the crowd dies down and then proceed. If you’re traveling by Greyhound bus, try to keep a distance of a row between you and other passengers. Always sanitize your hands after getting off.

PRECAUTIONS WHILE SHOPPING

All shopping outlets undoubtedly have the best sales during Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The best way to avoid the crowded shopping malls is to order your gifts online. Online shopping websites provide an easy and safe alternative to shopping in stores. If you need to get out, shopping malls and stores will all be crowded with last minute shoppers, so a mask is your safest bet. Crowded stores become a hotspot for transmission. Skip a crowded store in a mall and move to a less crowded store. While shopping during sales, keep away from touching clothes, bags and shoes as many people might have gone through them. Browse through the clothes and shoes on racks instead of touching them. Don’t use makeup testers at all costs as you will be at risk of directly coming in contact with the virus.

PRECAUTIONS DURING FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS

Virtual gatherings have become very common as it allows you to celebrate from the safety of your home with a large number of people. Limit the number of people at social gatherings. Try having your gatherings outdoors instead of indoors as poor ventilation in a small space increases the risk of contraction. Social distance as much as possible by arranging your seating in such a way that you’re six feet away from each other. While serving food, one person should be incharge of serving all the guests. This will ensure that the serving spoons are not being touched by everyone. The same goes with drinks. Refrain from sending kids out caroling to limit their contact with other people.

PRECAUTIONS WHEN HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS

Constantly wear a mask during outings with your friends as other people might have also traveled from far off destinations like you. By doing so, not only are you staying safe, but you’re also keeping them safe if you have contracted it. Other than touching your face, avoid kissing people on the cheek as well. Don’t shake hands as you normally would as the virus could get transferred. Avoid touching common surfaces like door knobs, fingerprint scanners, ticket machines, handrails, elevator buttons, and benches. The same with magazines and water coolers. Carry your metal straw to avoid direct contact with your glass.

It is also important to research the destination you’re traveling to. If the cases of Coronavirus are rampantly spreading at your destination, it is advisable not to travel to such locations. Also, certain people like the elderly, those with respiratory conditions, pregnant women and those with a weak immune system have a higher likelihood of contracting the disease and might even be far more affected than others. Such people should completely avoid traveling and social gatherings. After you’ve reached your destination, quarantine in a separate room so that you don’t put your family at risk. Prevention is always better than cure. 

For more information about public safety, visit the W.H.O website. 

At Buckhead Medicine, we’ve also written quite a few informative articles you may find interesting, especially if you’re Planning to fly during Covid-19 or want to get a Covid Test done without having insurance. 

Why does the CDC keep changing COVID guidelines?

As the COVID pandemic progresses worldwide, with many countries seeing an exponential resurgence, governments around the world are changing their public health strategies. Prevention, testing, and treatment guidelines are in constant flux, with agencies struggling to adapt to the peaks and dips in the spread of the virus. New data from studies, better understanding of preventive measures that work, and clinical practices are shaping the guidance being provided. 

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no different. It has been laying down several testing and monitoring guidelines, to ensure that citizens take all the necessary precautions in order not to get infected by the coronavirus. 

WHY THE FREQUENT CHANGE IN RECOMMENDATIONS?

With the first wave of COVID, experts had begun debating the ways in which the virus spreads and what are some of the methods to best halt or limit progression. In some places, widespread fear of contaminated surfaces led to most businesses such as grocery stores to bleach and disinfect their service areas and groceries. The CDC soon concluded that person-to-person transmission was a much more pressing threat for community spread compared to infection via surface contamination, though it cannot be dismissed completely. The agency now has focused its guidance on avoiding the larger droplets expelled by sneezes and coughs, which are thought to be mostly limited to a six-foot radius. Wearing of masks is quickly becoming a norm and in many places, a mandate, including business establishments. 

Along with new recommendations, the CDC has also recently reversed its prior testing guidelines made in August to now recommend that anyone, regardless of symptoms, who has been in close contact with an infected person be tested for COVID. The coronavirus task force, with instructions from The White House had directed the CDC to change those guidelines in August, stating that asymptomatic people did not need to be tested.

With new COVID information and clinical data becoming available, the CDC has had to keep revising the previously stated recommendations, keeping in mind the safety of citizens. Prioritizing citizens’ health and wellbeing is one of the main concerns of the CDC. Since the pandemic began, with ongoing research a lot of new information has brought about numerous new findings, which is why CDC too has had to adapt and revise guidelines multiple times. With a novel virus that adapts to its environments, thus keeping scientists on their toes, standard operating procedures and guidelines will no doubt change regularly to reflect new findings. 

Despite all the changing recommendations and numerous revised guidelines, CDC continues to recommend that all people, whether they have been infected by the COVID virus or not, should take steps to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. And so in view of containing the spread of the virus, CDC has laid down several guidelines as well as preventive measures which citizens are required to  follow strictly.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES LAID DOWN BY THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION INCLUDE: 

  1. Washing of hands regularly with soap and water, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or cooking food. NOTE:If soap and water are not readily available, use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is necessary. 
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  4. In the presence of a crowd or at the office, practice social distancing by putting 6 feet between yourself and others.
  5. Above all, wear masks at all times.

Especially at a time like this, it is imperative that as concerned citizens, we should be highly cautious of our surroundings and people we come in contact with. Buckhead Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, wants you to be informed and to stay safe. In the event that you feel you may have contracted COVID-19, or are feeling unwell give us a call to set up an appointment to get tested.

Having limited information about the virus as well as reinfections that can be caused by the COVID virus, it is highly recommended to follow the safety measures laid down by the CDC and to work along with the agency, as they actively learn and provide us with all the necessary information to stay safe.

Coronavirus Update 14: The Next Wave of the Pandemic

I hope this update finds you healthy and safe. For many of you, including myself, COVID-19 fatigue has set in. Social isolation and creation of barriers is clearly not the way we typically live our lives. We are now in month nine of the COVID-19 pandemic and sadly the loss of life has been severe. I want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines and monoclonal antibody therapy are on the horizon. These interventions will undoubtedly change the trajectory of this pandemic.

I do want to make you aware that I am working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health, our local hospitals and our medical suppliers to ensure that when vaccines and therapies are accessible they will be available to you. Additionally, I’m still in the process of reviewing the data, as it becomes available, with regard to safety of vaccines and therapies. I will pass along my recommendations to you as soon as possible. Based on what I have reviewed to date, both the vaccines and the therapies look very promising and show good safety profiles.

As we enter the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with markedly increasing numbers across our country and the world, we must persevere and keep protecting ourselves and others. Sacrifices must be made by not only those at greatest risk but also by our healthiest and least vulnerable groups. As a reminder, our most vulnerable population includes patients above the age of 65, patients with respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD, women during pregnancy and patients with compromised immune systems, including patients on chemotherapy and immunomodulators.

As you know, the strongest measures that we currently have in preventing transmission of the virus includes social distancing, avoiding large crowds, frequent hand washing and wearing a mask. As we enter the holiday season I fervently recommend that you adhere to these measures. You have the ability to change the trajectory of this pandemic.

Currently our practice remains open, however we are recommending that our most vulnerable population make use of our telemedicine services or phone consultations for routine medical needs. At this time, in the most vulnerable groups, its reasonable to postpone non urgent in-person evaluations.

I’ll continue to work to keep you as updated as possible.

Warm wishes as we approach the holidays,

Dr. Edward Espinosa
Buckhead Medicine
91 W. Wieuca Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342
404-257-5585

How to get a Covid test if you don’t have Health Insurance

Even before the pandemic, the lack of healthcare prevented millions of Americans from accessing healthcare facilities. But today, we know that testing is the most crucial tool to flatten the virus infection rate curve and control the spread of Covid-19. So, what if you suspect that you have something that’s more than the flu and don’t have health insurance? Or what if you do have health insurance but no primary care doctor and you want to avoid what could be an expensive trip to the emergency room?

It’s a known fact that Americans pay more for healthcare than any other country in the world, even in the midst of a pandemic. And just as scientists study how the disease works and spreads, health economists are keen to understand how much the full treatment of Corona virus costs. According to Fair Health, the average charge for a Covid-19 hospitalization for someone over 60 years old is at about $61,912 right now, which includes any medical care (emergency room visits, drugs provided, etc.) during their hospital stay.

If you are insured, the amount you are responsible for will be much lower, but still set you back over $10,000. The Fair Health Data study also showed that for Covid patients over 60, based on the number of hospital stay days, the charges ranged from $26,821 to $192,149. Many health insurers have stated that they will not apply co-payments or deductibles to patient’s Covid hospital stays which would help shield them from hefty medical bills that they would be responsible for. Uninsured patients, however, would have to pay the entire hospital charge and not receive any discounts.

HOW TO GET A COVID TEST WITHOUT INSURANCE?

Technically, tests are supposed to be available to anyone regardless of their health insurance status and in an ideal world, there would be no charges for getting a Covid-19 test done. However, we have discovered that this is not the case. The cost of testing today ranges from no-cost to $352 out-of-pocket at an urgent care clinic versus over $2300 in the emergency room.

When it comes to getting a Covid test done, an uninsured person could be looking at a spend of a few hundred dollars at a doctor’s office or testing site to a few thousand dollars in an ER. Insured folks need to be aware that deductibles and co-pays may apply based upon their insurance carrier and/or health plan they are on, and as such could face a charge.

Currently, testing requires the approval of a doctor, so speaking to your healthcare practitioner would be the first step. Your doctor will consider testing if you have symptoms or have travelled to an area where Covid-19 is spreading. If you do not have a primary care practitioner on call in Atlanta, Georgia, you can give us a call at Buckhead Medicine to set up an appointment. The bottom line is, whether you have insurance or not, seek medical care.

There are 3 steps to go through to get a Covid-test done, and each step comes with a different charge:

  • In most cases, you will need an initial screening. Buckhead Medicine provides virtual consultations for patients on-demand.
  • If your doctor feels that you need to be called in for a test, you will be directed to visit the clinic to get swabbed or to get blood drawn.
  • Your sample is then sent to a lab where it will get analyzed to determine whether or not you have Covid-19.

If you have insurance, in most cases, the initial consultation and clinic visit is free, but this amount can stretch up to $100. A primary care office visit and test can range between $120 to $250. The lab cost will depend on your insurance policy. A lab can charge anywhere between $100 to $500. How much you need to pay will depend upon whether your insurance plan covers all three steps of the process and how much of the cost they will cover.

To know more or to book an appointment to get a Covid test in Atlanta, Georgia, contact Buckhead Medicine.

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*Expedited PCR carries an additional charge because we have our office staff physically deliver the specimen by hand to the commercial lab. Insurance will never pay for the expedited service. Both standard RT-PCR and RT-PCR Expedited are available to help you meet international travel requirements.

Planning to fly during Covid-19? Here’s what you need to know

2020 has certainly been a year of disruption, with air travel being no exception. Aside from checking on your destination status and rules with regards to Covid-19 and employer-imposed restrictions for travel, there are now new Covid-19 infection mitigation related initiatives being tested by some of the major airline carriers. Of recent, you may have heard about United Airlines testing a Covid-19 ‘health pass’ app to enable safer global travel and accelerate border re-openings. The app, called ‘CommonPass’ was developed to allow travellers to share their Covid-19 test status across borders using a trusted framework.

Wondering how it works?

Upon disembarking from an aircraft, passengers can use their phones to document their Covid-19 test results and share it with airline staff, which until now, was being shared on pieces of paper from unknown labs in foreign languages. The lack of a standardised test format and certification was, until now, leading to confusion and falsification of results.

Without the ability to fully trust Covid-19 results across international borders, many countries had no other option than to enforce travel bans and mandatory quarantine periods. Last month, United Airlines also announced that it was working to launch the first testing program for air travellers (for specific destinations), involving rapid tests at the airport or use of mail-in at-home tests prior to travel for passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaiian airports.

The test in question, Rapid Abbott ID, provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be made available to United Airline customers to use on the day of their travel. United Airlines does plan to roll out similar testing to other U.S destinations over time. If you’re based in Atlanta, Georgia, and are planning to travel then your best bet is to talk to your primary care physician regarding getting a valid Rapid Test or one of the other approved tests done within 24 hours of your travel date.

As of today, November 5th,2020, Georgia’s case rate has surged to about 14 cases per 100,000 people over the last 7 days. For travellers finding a testing site that knows the airline test requirements or those that offer the required test with results available within a short time frame (i.e., within 24 hours) is posing to be a challenge. Buckhead Medicine, an award-winning premier concierge and traditional medical practice in mid-town Atlanta, offers and facilitates preventive Covid-19 screening and testing. Getting tested is an important step in planning your travel – and it should be important enough to put on your packing list, right alongside your passport.

How do you get a test for Covid-19 in Atlanta?

If you think you have Covid-19 and feel like you have symptoms, you should first call your primary care provider to talk about your symptoms. This is even more vital if you plan to travel shortly. From urgent care centres to hospitals and pharmacies, you can get a Covid-test done anywhere. Due to a limited supply of tests (and reagents) and manpower shortages, most testing sites focus on high priority, at-risk people and turn away travellers. However, Buckhead Medicine has setup in-house specific testing facilities and staff for regular patients, and to support the increasing demand from ad-hoc requests. Simply go to www.buckheadmedicine.com or call to setup an appointment for your Covid-test.

What kind of Covid-19 Virus Tests are there?

There are multiple ways to get tested with regards to viral infection. The antigen based viral tests are designed to detect a current infection, while an antibody test will indicate whether you have contracted the virus in the past. If you are travelling, you will need to take the antigen test to find out if you are actively infected. At Buckhead Medicine, we do this via nasal or throat swabs, as well as with saliva samples – they are all quick and painless, with results generally available within 24 – 36 hours.

How do you plan on when to take the test?

Travellers need to find the apt time to take the test. If you take it too early, the results might not be valid by the time you have to travel or potentially you could get infected in the interim. On the other hand, if you plan it too close to your departure date, you may not get your results back in time. Different tests come with different wait times – while the Rapid Test will give you your result in within minutes to hours, the PCR test can take up to 36 – 72 hours. Buckhead Medicine offers results usually within 15 minutes with Rapid testing. Note – the availability of the rapid 15-minute turn around tests available on-site is dependent on availability to test kits.

Airline analysts think that Covid-19 testing or proof of vaccination could eventually become a pre-flight mandate. If we want our economy to bounce back, and our freedom to travel to return, we must be willing to accept that it’s going to be a different world – one wherein we need to prove our good health to airlines and government authorities in order to travel again.