Frequently Asked Questions
What are baseline precautions me and my family can take to prevent COVID-19?
Good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent transmission of COVID-19. This means washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer throughout the day. Do not touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or face with unwashed hands. Stay home when you are sick and avoid visibly sick people in the community. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. Clean frequently touched surfaces on a daily basis. CDC Hand Hygiene Guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/handwashing.html
How do I prepare my household for COVID-19?
Refer to the CDC website on preparations recommended in all households: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/index.html. We urge you to ensure there are adequate supplies of common and prescription medications for every member of your household. Make sure your prescriptions are not expired and have refills.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are cough and fever. Worrisome symptoms are shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Runny nose, congestion, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are less common symptoms.
Should I come to the office for my regularly scheduled clinic appointment?
If you are well and have no known exposure to COVID-19 cases, it is okay to keep your appointment, but you may choose to delay your visit if you prefer. Our offices have put in place strict infection control measures including a triage system to separate patients with respiratory symptoms. Your safety is our priority and we appreciate your understanding at this time.
When should I go to the Emergency Room?
Please do NOT go to the emergency room for mild fever, cough, or cold symptoms alone. You should go to the emergency room if you are experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or are unable to stay hydrated through drinking liquids.
Should I remain in school or work?
All public and private schools in Massachusetts have been closed. We advise you to follow the advisories provided by your school or school district. Similarly, any workplace will encourage their employees to work from home if possible. If you are a high-risk individual and/or potentially work in a high-risk environment we strongly encourage you to consider staying home. If you require documentation to miss an event, we are happy to write a letter stating that you are a person of vulnerable health whose risk of infectious exposure must be minimized.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing is a strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This is a conscious effort to reduce contact between people to slow down the spread of the virus. Even if you are symptom free and not part of an at-risk group, you still need to change your lifestyle starting today. You should avoid public places if you cannot stay six feet away from other people. You should be home as much as possible. Think about how you can decrease close contacts and crowded environments while COVID-19 is spreading through our communities.
Should I worry about the grocery store?
Again, try to avoid being close to others. Go to the store early in the morning or off-hours to avoid crowds. If you are in an area with home delivery, ask that your groceries be left at the door, rather than face-to-face interaction.
Can I have friends over?
There is no absolute rule, but the idea is to decrease the size of gatherings while increasing the distance between people. And always, practice good hygiene. It is also a good idea to minimize the number of gatherings you have.
Can I go to the gym?
If you go to the gym, disinfect the surfaces you touch, wash your hands before and after you work out. Be sure not to touch your face during workouts. And, as always, keep distance between yourself and others.
Should I visit my elderly relatives?
You should limit your visits and keep your distance from your older relatives, who are at high risk from COVID-19. If possible, set up a way to visit them through a virtual visit. But do have a plan to stay in contact and be in touch with them regularly.
What happens if I fall ill with cough and/or fever?
You should not attend work. If you have a sick plan, follow instructions for treatment provided by your doctor. If you have a medical appointment or if you are planning one, please call the office ahead of time to notify staff that you are ill, and you will be advised on how to proceed.
What happens if another member of my family falls ill with cough and/or fever?
Your family member should call their primary care provider to get medical advice. The ill person should not report to work and should avoid public spaces and gatherings. You can limit infection spread at home by asking the ill person to avoid shared spaces and wear a mask, if available.
See CDC website for household cleaning and disinfection guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html
Do I need to be tested for COVID-19?
At this time, testing for COVID-19 is limited across the U.S. but is expanding daily. Unfortunately, because of limited testing, it is impossible to know precisely how widespread COVID-19 is in the U.S. This is why we urge people who are mildly ill with fever and/or cough to avoid public spaces and limit contact with others as much as possible.
Should I attend meetings and conferences?
Many cities, companies and institutions are now prohibiting large group meetings. Governor Baker issued an emergency order limiting gatherings to 25 individuals and prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink at bars and restaurants, beginning on March 17. We expect such bans to remain in place for weeks. Likewise, we encourage close contacts of our patients to avoid crowds and gatherings for the time being. If you require documentation to miss an event, we are happy to write a letter stating that you are a person of vulnerable health whose risk of infectious exposure must be minimized.
Should my family members or I proceed with travel and vacation plans?
COVID-19 cases have now been reported in 114 countries around the world. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 10, 2020. This means the number of cases and cities affected is expected to keep growing, and there is the potential for widespread transmission.
Please check the CDC website for the latest advice on domestic and international travel: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html. We urge you not to place yourself, your household members, and close contacts unnecessarily in harm’s way.
How long is the incubation period? If someone in my household travels to cities with confirmed cases, how many days must pass without symptoms before he/she is considered disease-free?
Current data suggests the incubation period is up to 14 days. Travelers are advised to monitor their health closely for at least 2 weeks after returning home. Self-quarantine is not indicated if there is no direct exposure to COVID-19 cases and the traveler has no symptoms.
What happens if someone in my house has a potential school or workplace exposure to COVID-19?
We expect that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the employers or school will be contacting you with instructions that you should follow. Recommendations may depend on specific details of the exposure and the likelihood of becoming infected. This applies to all of our patients and families, regardless of a family member’s underlying condition.
Should I wear a mask in public?
It is not necessary for you to wear a mask if you are well and are not having any symptoms at all.
If someone in your family is unwell and has respiratory symptoms, he/she should wear a mask to reduce the risk of spreading infection to other people. COVID-19, like many other respiratory viruses, spreads through droplets. Wearing a mask will protect other people when someone who is unwell coughs or sneezes, as the mask would trap those droplets and prevent them from spreading. In these cases, wearing a basic surgical mask is adequate if worn properly.
Where can I find an N95 respirator mask?
Only healthcare workers are required to wear N95 masks because they are in close contact with patients and infected body fluids for prolonged periods of time. At this time, there are no N95 respirator masks manufactured and approved for use in children.
Should I wear a protective gown, gloves or goggles?
It is not necessary for you or family members to wear protective equipment in public. Only healthcare workers are required to do so because they are in contact with patients and infected body fluids for prolonged periods of time.
Please be cautious of what you read online and choose reliable resources, such as the CDC or WHO
You can dial 211 from any Massachusetts phone to reach DPH for additional answers to questions.