What is COVID-19?

SARS-CoV-2 is a new type of coronavirus causing COVID-19, which is a respiratory illness. It’s similar to the virus that caused SARS in 2003. COVID-19 is believed to have originated in animals and then spread to humans originally in Wuhan Province, China. From China, COVID-19 has quickly spread around the world.

How much do I need to worry?

It’s important to keep up to date on information concerning spread and treatment of COVID-19 and to follow the recommendations outlined below, but there is no need to panic. Flu remains much more common right now than COVID-19 and the severity of illness from COVID-19 is not significantly different than that of flu in the vast majority of people. While the media will highlight the number of people getting very sick, remember that 70-80% of people will only have mild illness and will recover fully. People with a greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems or chronic medical diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and chronic kidney disease. Fortunately, children appear to be relatively protected from COVID-19.

How does the virus spread?

The virus can spread from person to person by coming in contact with respiratory droplets (i.e. secretions if someone coughs directly on you, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth with hands contaminated by infected respiratory droplets in the environment).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can occur anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure but generally occur about 5 days after exposure and include fever (100.4 and higher), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle or body aches, and less commonly, vomiting or diarrhea.

How sick can I get from COVID-19?

Thankfully, 70-80% of people who get this virus will have very mild illness and will recover without any problem and not require hospitalization or to be seen in an Emergency Department. Children and younger people tend not to get severe illness from COVID-19. People at highest risk of severe illness are the elderly and those with multiple medical problems such as lung diseases and immunocompromised states.

Can I get the virus from casual contact with someone?

It’s unlikely that you would get the virus just from casual contact, such as walking past someone. In order to get infected you need to have prolonged close contact with a person infected with the virus, which means being closer than 6 feet to the person, or have direct contact with infected secretions, i.e. being directly coughed on.

How can I keep myself safe?

The single most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently! Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

When you cough or sneeze, do so into in to a tissue then throw the tissue away, or in to your elbow and not your hand. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands.

Should I be wearing a face mask?

Face masks are only recommended to be worn as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) or if you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19. Wearing a mask when you are not sick may actually increase your chance of getting ill because you’ll be touching your face, nose and mouth more frequently. Inappropriate use of masks also decreases the much needed supply of masks for the health care facilities to care for patients.

What should I do if I feel ill?

If you develop symptoms of fever, cough and/or flu-like symptoms you should stay home and isolate yourself from others as much as possible until your illness resolves. You should continue to practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette as described above, while also regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces like light switches, faucets, cabinets and door handles in your home. If you’re not sure what to do, you should contact your primary care provider by phone before entering a medical care facility.

How do I know my symptoms aren’t just the flu?

The symptoms of the flu are almost identical to those of COVID-19. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle or body aches, vomiting and/or diarrhea it is much more likely that you have the flu than COVID-19.

Will my doctor’s office or urgent care test me for COVID-19?

Right now, testing for COVID-19 is limited and generally only being conducted in cases of illness consistent with COVID-19 and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient or travel to a high-risk area through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Priority is being given to hospitalized patients and those at risk for severe illness. Some commercial tests are starting to become available, but much like the state testing, do not produce results for 3-4 days. This is an evolving process that is changing daily. At present, however, it is best to call your health care provider or urgent care BEFORE arriving requesting a test for COVID-19 as testing may or may not be appropriate for you. If you are concerned you may have COVID-19 but you are not tested, it is best to isolate yourself from others at home until your illness resolves, just as you should with the flu.

How does my doctor determine who should be tested for COVID-19?

As a general guideline from the CDC and DPH, your doctor will request a COVID-19 test if you’ve recently traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, or other areas of the world with widespread transmission of the virus and have a fever or symptoms of a lower respiratory illness including a cough or shortness of breath.

If you haven’t traveled, but have had recent exposure to someone with a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19, you’ll be considered for testing if you’re displaying clinical symptoms.

What should I expect if I am suspected of having COVID-19?

If you come to the emergency department (ED) displaying clinical symptoms of COVID-19 and meet the travel or exposure criteria, you’ll be provided with a surgical mask and brought into an isolation room in the ED for further examination. We will collect further information from you regarding your symptoms while trying to rule out other illnesses such as the flu. Medical staff providing your care will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a gown, gloves, respirator and eye protection. This is done to reduce the risk of exposure.

We will consult with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) regarding your case. Testing for COVID-19 will be based on their recommendations. If it’s determined that you should be tested, we will perform a nose and throat swab which is then sent off to their lab for testing. Turnaround time for the results ranges from 24-96 hours. If you do not require admission to the hospital, you will be instructed to quarantine yourself at home until otherwise directed by the MDPH based on the results of your COVID-19 test.

Is there any treatment?

Many scientists are currently working on developing vaccines and treatment options for COVID-19 and some experimental medications are being used for patients hospitalized with severe illness, but right now the treatment is predominantly supportive. This includes rest, fluids, symptomatic treatment of fever and body aches, and avoiding contact with others.

Where you will receive care depends on the severity of your symptoms as well as any required specialty care. The majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will not require hospitalization.

If you’re not critically ill and your symptoms do not require medical care, we will consult with MDPH who will monitor your home quarantine while awaiting your COVID-19 results.

If you’re not critically ill but you require medical care, you’ll be moved from the emergency department to an airborne isolation room on a non-intensive care unit to receive care while we await your COVID-19 results. All precautionary measures will continue.

If you’re critically ill, you’ll be moved to the intensive care unit in an airborne isolation room to receive care, precautionary measures will continue while we wait for your test results.

What is the difference between ‘presumptive’ and ‘confirmed’ cases of COVID-19?

A presumptive case is when an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by local and state entities. A confirmed case is a one that has been confirmed as positive by the CDC.

How has Sturdy Memorial Hospital prepared for COVID-19?

As a community hospital, we continuously prepare for situations such as the one we’re currently facing with COVID-19. With that in mind, Sturdy has developed a COVID-19 Taskforce responsible for monitoring the outbreak locally and internationally while working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other health officials with the goal of ensuring we are ready to safely care for the patients in our community.

In addition to our standard infection control measures, we’ve implemented additional screening at all of our locations including our urgent care centers and associate practices. This screening includes asking patients and visitors questions regarding their recent international travel, exposure to others with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, as well as whether or not they’ve had a fever or cough, allowing us to quickly identify and isolate potential patients. We’ve also made changes to our visitation policy and are strongly discouraging all visitors at this time.

We’ve provided additional training pertaining to the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and are closely monitoring and increasing levels of PPE equipment and other necessary supplies for our medical staff. We continue to update policies and provide education related to care of potential COVID-19 patients, including minimizing exposure to staff wherever appropriate. We continue to provide updates to all of our employees as new information becomes available from the MDPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where can I learn more?

We encourage you to use reputable sites such as the CDC and World Health Organization to obtain up-to-date and reliable information. Be careful about using information from social media sites that does not reference reputable sources.

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