News articles, social media posts, and anecdotal stories are showing people reacting to our current COVID-19 outbreak by running to urgent care, doctors’ offices, or emergency rooms when they have any respiratory symptoms. This is already beginning to unnecessarily stress our healthcare system, and it’s too soon. By doing this, we’re going to spike the curve when we need to flatten it!
Friends who are hospital nurses have indicated that they are being pulled from their own jobs caring for patients to help staff emergency rooms. Emergency rooms are filling up with people who have very minor symptoms but want (in many cases, demand) to be tested for coronavirus. I understand that we want to make sure we are keeping a count of our cases, but the accuracy of that number isn’t as important as saving lives. The other number here is the number of deaths. Do your part to keep that number low, and keep in mind that both these tests and the time of our healthcare professionals are precious resources that are required by the most vulnerable among us.
If you don’t feel well, follow CDC’s guidance. If you are otherwise healthy, call your healthcare provider. Don’t go anywhere just yet unless:
- you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and
- you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19
If you are older and/or have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised, reach out to your provider early, even if your illness is mild. If your symptoms are severe (e.g., persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face), it’s time to seek care right away. Call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room. Your doctor will ask a series of questions to determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested. Not everyone will be tested.
This is another topic that has garnered attention online. We simply don’t have enough tests to administer to everyone demanding one. Is it more important for a medical professional to spend time testing you because you have a cough, or to spend that time caring for a patient in the ICU with the most severe disease complications?
A couple of days ago, my daughter developed a dry cough. My stomach fell when I heard it. I almost cried. I didn’t want to worry her, but I was terrified inside. Since then, I’ve probably taken her temperature 25 times. She thinks I’m crazy. Her nose started running yesterday, and she’s been sneezing. I’m pretty sure it’s just a cold or maybe allergies, but in our current reality, it could have been something else. However, I took my own advice, and I monitored symptoms, didn’t rush to the doctor, did my best to control her symptoms, and kept her away from others outside of our household.
I urge everyone to stay educated on the topic and make sure your facts are up-to-date but don’t drown in coverage. Turn to trusted and respected sources of information, like CDC and WHO, not your friend’s conspiracy theory social media posts. If you have questions, and you can’t find the answers online, try some of the hotlines dedicated to coronavirus questions. If you are mildly ill and want to reach a doctor, try a telemedicine app if one is available to you.
Be kind to the public health and medical professionals you know right now. They are all working towards a solution, and if we are lucky and don’t unnecessarily distract them, they might find more ways to treat coronavirus and save more lives.
-Leslie Rodriguez, Senior Director, Public Health Programs