Updated April 1, 2021
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QUESTIONS ABOUT EXPOSURE/TESTING
Q: I'm a "close contact" of someone who now has COVID-19. What should I do?
A: You should take immediate steps to protect yourself and others. Even if you feel well, this means self-quarantining for 10-14 days after you last were near that person - keeping away from work, family, and the public as much as possible - and wearing a mask when you do have to be around others. You also should arrange to be tested for infection (see below questions). This is because you can pass the virus even without having symptoms.
Q: I've been told that someone that I've been in contact with was in contact with someone with COVID-19. What does that mean for me?
A: This "two degrees of separation" scenario is very common as the virus remains rampant across the country. You SHOULD encourage your mutual contact to be tested, and they should quarantine; if that person turns out to be positive OR develops symptoms then follow our answer to the first question. If you have been vaccinated, see below for additional guidance.
Q: When should a "close contact" get tested?
A: While as a contact of someone with COVID-19 you could be tested right away, we generally recommend doing this between 4 and 8 days after you last were in contact with that person. This is because the testing is often not reliable earlier and the risk of false negative tests is high. Also, EVEN IF you have a negative COVID-19 test you still need to self-quarantine for 14 days because of the potential for a falsely negative test unless vaccinated, as explained below.
Q: How do I get a COVID-19 test?
A: New Jersey maintains a list of active testing sites on their website, COVID19.NJ.GOV, along with the types of testing the sites offer and expected turn-around times for results. Some locations offer "rapid testing" which can give same-day results but which generally are not as accurate or sensitive compared to the lab-based PCR testing which takes a few days. Our office has arranged several testing options with local labs to be tested quickly, so our patients should contact us if they are in need of a test.
Q: If I have COVID-19 or feel symptoms, what should I be doing?
A: If you have a positive test for COVID-19 or are developing symptoms of it, contact your doctor for advice right away. Seek emergency care if symptoms are severe. You should be self-isolating and monitoring your temperature, pulse oximeter readings, and symptoms closely. You should also contact anyone that you recently have had close contact with to alert them so that they can be tested.
QUESTIONS ABOUT VACCINES and PREVENTION
Q: What would be helpful for me to have at home just in case I'm exposed?
A: We recommend everyone prepare a "COVID kit" that includes a reliable thermometer, blood pressure monitor, and pulse oximeter. All of these items are currently available on-line and at most local pharmacies. It's also a good idea to have Tylenol and cold medications handy. There is also some evidence that a few vitamins/supplements can be helpful in prevention, including vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc.
Q: What about the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: The FDA approved several vaccines that are highly effective against COVID-19. New Jersey is constantly updating a list of who is eligible, starting with those at highest risk. It will take several months to get through these groups before the shot is available to the general population. Be sure to register at COVID19.NJ.GOV or call 855-568-0545 to register with the State so that you can be notified when a vaccine is available to you. We also recommend checking with your county health department and local hospitals about vaccine availability because they maintain their own lists.. As per the Governor, no documentation of your eligibility is required but they ask that you adhere to the "honor system" of receiving the vaccine when it is your turn. Most experts are optimistic that we will get to the general public around the summer. Provided there are no major unexpected issues, we generally recommend people get whichever vaccine they are offered because the risks of COVID-19 are almost certainly greater than any side effects thus far seen. We are NOT maintaining a list of patients interested in the vaccine because we assume all people to be up for it unless they say otherwise. We do not yet have vaccine available in our office, but we will post updates if we do.
Q: I've been vaccinated!!! What does that mean for me?
A: Whether vaccinated with the mRNA (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna) or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, starting 2 weeks after your last dose you are very protected. The chance of getting sick at all from COVID-19 is small, and the risk of severe (hospitalizing) disease is EXTREMELY small. What we don't (and won't soon) know for sure is whether you can asymptomatically pass the virus to others; while this is unlikely, it is important to keep in mind. What we also don't yet know is if a COVID variant resistant to the vaccines might change our tune.
CDC guidelines confirm that those who have been vaccinated adequately DO NOT have to quarantine after a close exposure if it has been two weeks since completing your vaccine series and within 3 months of your last shot. Still monitor for symptoms and quarantine should any occur.
The CDC also announced that FULLY vaccinated people may gather with OTHER FULLY vaccinated people without precautions, and may gather with low-risk unvaccinated single households without masks or social distancing. Details about this are on the CDC site. Please be aware that state guidelines may differ from the CDC's recommendations.
People at high-risk who have been secluding themselves in their homes to avoid COVID-19 may, 2 weeks after the vaccine shot(s), feel relatively safe to venture out in currently permitted activities such as shopping, dining, and distanced/masked gatherings with people of unknown vaccine status.
Q: What are the most effective ways not to get or spread COVID-19?
A: Wear a mask: 2+ layer cotton face coverings or surgical masks are proven effective in protecting both you and others. Social distancing, meaning maintaining 6 feet of separation between you and others greatly reduces the spread of the virus. Avoid confined indoor spaces particularly with poor ventilation when around others. Don't be afraid to tell other people this isn't safe! Holding events outdoors is safer. Try to minimize in-person gatherings whenever possible to limit your exposure to this virus, particularly if you are high-risk. Consider curbside pickup or on-line options for shopping. Practice hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Avoid touching your face or mask if your hands haven't been cleaned immediately before doing so. Consider eye protection such as a face shield or goggles if you are forced to be in a crowded or risky situation, such as during air travel.
Q: Can I safely travel?
A: We encourage people to minimize travel when cases are surging, particularly to areas that are poorly controlling the virus. If you do have to travel, driving is likely safest as you can limit contact with others. When driving is not feasible, air travel should be done with as many precautions as possible including masks, eye protection, diligent hand hygiene, and sanitizing of your seat and surroundings. Most importantly, interact with as few strangers as possible.
Q: Is it safe for me to meet with family, friends, or social groups?
A: This is a difficult question because any interaction with others can spread this virus. Right now, we recommend extreme caution unless you are 2 weeks out from completing vaccination, but even then caution is wise. You have to consider two things: how risky is the event, and how at-risk are you for severe COVID-19? Small outdoor or distanced gatherings of people who are like-minded about being very safe day-to-day and who will adhere to the guidelines are much safer than larger gatherings where people aren't paying attention to the recommendations. COVID testing can be helpful but may be difficult to schedule around holidays, and please note that just because you test negative today doesn't mean you can't test positive tomorrow! It's wise to be very careful with precautions prior to meeting up.
QUESTIONS ABOUT PHYSICAL and MENTAL HEALTH
Q: Am I high-risk for COVID-19?
A: This CDC site is regularly updated with our latest understanding of what puts people at higher risk.
Q: I'm getting really tired of this whole COVID thing. Am I alone in feeling this?
A: Pandemic fatigue is a real thing. This new "normal" can take a serious toll on your sense of well-being. Unfortunately, the virus doesn't care... it takes any opportunity to spread when we let our guard down. Many people are feeling increasingly isolated, sad, or even depressed. Substance abuse and drinking have spiked as people try to deal with the stress of this pandemic. Know that you are not alone, and we have helped many patients like you find a way to cope! Please don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor or mental health professional if you feel the effects of this pandemic are becoming more than you can handle. If you are feeling suicidal, reach out immediately to the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Q: If I having a medical issue, is it safe for me to go to the emergency room or doctor?
A: Patients delaying treatment for diseases other than COVID-19 is a major issue right now. DO NOT DELAY seeking care! EMS, hospitals and doctor's offices are well-equipped to protect patients from catching this virus. While most people are focused on the pandemic, other serious diseases are not going away!
Q: What can I do to stay healthy?
A: Keep up to date with your medical care. Make a conscious effort to exercise as best you can; this is great for both physical and mental health. Establish a mindfulness routine to your day, with simple daily rituals that put your mind at ease; some people find meditating to be helpful. Eat healthy foods and avoid sitting around watching too much TV or spending too much time online. If you are gaining weight, devote yourself to a plan to reverse course! Pursue some favorite hobbies, or find new ones. We are social creatures, so be sure to interact regularly with others... whether that means playing games with people at home, hosting a Zoom social with friends, or just calling family regularly.
QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR OFFICE
IF YOU SUSPECT YOU MAY HAVE COVID-19 DO NOT COME TO OUR OFFICE UNLESS YOU HAVE CALLED AHEAD AND BEEN INSTRUCTED BY THE DOCTOR TO DO SO!
Q: Is your office still seeing patients?
A: Yes. Our office remains open for regular office hours, and has taken many steps to be as safe a place as possible for our patients. When possible, we often conduct visits via a secure telemedicine platform so that you can see and talk with your doctor from anywhere while preventing any unnecessary risk. Visits for mental health, routine follow-up, and many ailments can be seen in this way initially. Should you need to see your doctor in person, we provide an atmosphere that minimizes the coronavirus risk to your health. If you do come in to see us, we are serious about trying to to keep you as safe as possible.
Q: How will my experience in your office be different?
A: We appreciate your cooperation with several new policies during the pandemic:
Q: What else is your office doing to keep me safe?
A: Our office has implemented several important policies to minimize the chance of exposing our patients or staff to this virus. This includes:
The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, so we have provided links at the bottom of this page to some dependable resources containing updates on the current status, description of symptoms, and best practices to minimize your risk.
There is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19. Most people fully recover and exhibit only mild symptoms often indistinguishable from the common cold, treated with OTC cold medications. For these people with symptoms, it is important to self-isolate to prevent spread of the disease.
Patients without symptoms but who are deemed direct contacts of people who have it are advised to self-quarantine. Click this link for an in-depth description of the differences in isolation and quarantine.
More severe cases require hospitalization, and some critical care. This is where we can improve survival with supportive care, ventilators (breathing machines) and potentially experimental medications. The reason it is so important to slow the spread of this disease is because such resources won't be available to everyone if too many cases occur at once.
Please heed any directives from state and local authorities to help curtail the spread of this disease!
New Jersey has developed a COVID-19 exposure alert tool. This app runs in the background on your phone and detects when you are within 6 feet of someone who later tests positive. It will then alert you to this exposure so you can get tested and protect yourself. This tool is developed with privacy high on the list - it does not 'track' you or follow your location. If most people start to use this app, it will make the pandemic much easier to control.
The CDC website is frequently updated and a good general source of information.
The trusted resource UpToDate contains both physician-level and patient-level information about the disease that is updated regularly.
CovidActNow.org is a regularly updated site that can give you an idea of the current status of the virus in each state.
The MATH+ protocol is a regularly updated set of recommendations and description of our understanding of this disease. It is primarily written for those with a medical background, but the diagrams and prevention guidelines are fairly easy to follow.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this page is our best attempt to offer basic updates about our office and to summarize regional guidelines. It in no way should be considered professional medical advice. Contact your healthcare provider if you are in need of medical care or to address your specific situation..
Medicine... how it should be!
300A Princeton-Hightstown Road
East Windsor, NJ 08520
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