Important Guidance to Protect You From the Coronavirus
In response to the recent global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), I wanted to provide you with information that will help you and your family stay healthy and informed about the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this virus a serious public health threat, and it is critical that you are aware of how to avoid the virus and prevent its spread. As of March 30, there have been 122,653 cases in the United States, including 1,020 presumptive cases in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Last Tuesday, the Governor announced Virginians should avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people, and that people aged 65 or older or with chronic health conditions should self-quarantine.
Symptoms of the coronavirus usually appear within 2-14 days after exposure. These can include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. While most coronavirus cases are similar to the common cold, symptoms should not be taken lightly. If you develop symptoms within two weeks of visiting China, you should call your doctor as soon as possible.
As your representative, your health and safety is my number one priority:
- If you are pregnant or a parent, please visit the CDC’s informational page on COVID-19 and pregnant women and children. For those breastfeeding currently, please review the CDC interim guidance on breastfeeding for a mother confirmed or under investigation for COVID-19.
- If you travel frequently for business or pleasure, please visit the CDC’s informational page on travel precautions.
- If you are a health care provider, please review the CDC’s guidance for public health professionals so that you are equipped with the resources you need to keep our communities healthy during this outbreak.
- If you are a small business owner, I recommend you review the CDC’s interim guidance for businesses and employers so that you can best deliver for your customers and protect your workers.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The virus is spread mainly from person-to-person, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. It is also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or possible eyes. However, contact with infected surfaces or objects is not the primary way the virus spreads.
To avoid exposure, the CDC recommends that you take the following precautions:
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with household cleaning sprays or wipes.
If you have symptoms, the CDC recommends you take the following actions to avoid spreading the disease to others:
- Contact your healthcare provider immediately.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. The CDC recommends that you restrict activities outside your home: do not go to work, school, or public areas and avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Facemasks should be used by those who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day. Examples of high-touch surfaces include: cell phones, laptops, keyboards, counters, tabletops, bathroom fixtures, toilets, and bedside tables. Every home and family is unique, so please err on the side of caution.
- You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet yourself, the CDC advises that you wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask. If you have additional concerns regarding your pet, please visit the CDC’s website regarding COVID-19 and animals.
As of now, the CDC recommends that travelers avoid nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy due to widespread transmission of the coronavirus. In addition, the CDC advises that older adults or people suffering from chronic medical conditions postpone travel to Japan. For the most up to date information, please click on the link here.
I encourage you to regularly visit the following websites to stay informed with the latest information.
- The Virginia Department of Health provides updates on the virus’ spread in Virginia and additional guidance.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is a great resource that has updated information on coronavirus symptoms, treatments, and frequently asked questions.
- The State Department has valuable information for people traveling outside of the United States.
Guidance for Veterans
What should veterans do if they think they have COVID-19?
Before visiting local VA medical facilities, community providers, urgent care centers, or emergency departments in their communities, veterans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath—are encouraged to call their VA medical facility or call MyVA311 (844-698-2311, press #3 to be connected). Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. VA clinicians will evaluate veterans’ symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate providers for further evaluation and treatment. This may include referral to state or local health departments for COVID-19 testing.
What about routine appointments and previously scheduled procedures?
VA is encouraging all veterans to call their VA facility before seeking any care—even previously scheduled medical visits, mental health appointments, or surgical procedures. Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet and find out whether they should still come in for their scheduled appointments. VA providers may arrange to convert appointments to video visits, where possible.
Can visitors still access VA medical facilities?
Many VA medical facilities have cancelled public events for the time being, and VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to postpone their visits to local VA medical facilities. Facilities have also been directed to limit the number of entrances through which visitors can enter. Upon arrival, all patients, visitors, and employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and possible exposure.
What about VA nursing homes and spinal cord injury units?
On March 10, 2020, VA announced that its 134 nursing homes (also called VA community living centers) and 24 spinal cord injury and disorder centers would be closed to all outside visitors. All clinical staff will be screened for COVID-19 daily before entering the nursing home or spinal cord injury units, and staff will work only within those units to limit possible transmission of the virus. Exceptions to the visitor policy will only be made for cases when veterans are in their last stages of life on hospice units or inpatient spinal cord injury units.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my offices.