A brief review of the multiple ways we work to protect you and our staff in our clinical environment, including improvements in HVAC, aggressive cleaning and PPE, and SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing for patients and staff. These efforts all serve to reduce the risk of passing or acquiring Covid-19 in the OHC clinical office.
We will start our flu clinics on Tuesday, September 29. Clinics will be offered Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and some Friday mornings through the end of October, or even early November as needed, for everyone to get the flu vaccine. A signup calendar will be active on our website within a few days. Further instructions will follow as well.
We are still in the midst of a pandemic that has subsided in Massachusetts but is still very much with us and could easily rebound. We need to remain vigilant in our self care. No real good news. US infections and deaths are at high levels and increasing. An effective and proven vaccine is not realistic until next year and then will take many months to distribute. Keep up your careful self care. This is depressing but real.
We have started scheduling comprehensive visits (“checkups”) for members in the office. Checkups will be divided into two parts, with video discussion one day and in-office physical exam and completion the subsequent day. This will allow thorough and effective comprehensive exams that will be safer by restricting in time spent in closed exam rooms. In addition we have detailed phone prescreening for Covid-19 and active virus point-of-care testing on arrival at the office to protect all of us.
We have begun in-office visits for appropriate urgent problems that are best handled with direct doctor-patient contact. We will continue to use primarily video visits through July (which are effective), but are considering offering some in-office checkups and routine follow-ups in August if allowed by the state, though such routine visits may not happen till after Labor Day. We all need more experience handling in-person care, which is now much more complex because of sanitation, separation and PPE requirements during this epidemic.
We are doing relatively well in Massachusetts. Wearing masks, frequent handwashing, and keeping social distance combine as an effective barrier against Covid-19. We need to maintain these practices and stay vigilant. Certain normal activities like going to the supermarket or Costco are low-risk, as is socializing outdoors. Cleaners and service-people are low-risk in your home. But indoor activities including in your living room or a restaurant remain high-risk to all concerned.
We are now doing in-office visits for patients with urgent problems. Most visits will continue via remote video links. We have reconfigured our procedures to include previsit screening for remote or office visits. We will ask people to wait in their cars. We will minimize the number of patients in office and keep the visit itself to essentials. In addition, we now have ability to test every patient for active SARS-CoV-2 virus by a nasal swab and get results in 15 minutes. We expect to integrate this in all our visits now.
We are beginning to leave quarantine. Covid-19 risks are much lower, but still present. We have to keep up our self protection appropriate to the risk, where greater intensity and duration of exposure increase risk. Use of handwashing, appropriate masks, social distancing, avoiding lingering in groups indoors, and home sanitization are all self-protection techniques. It is summer. Enjoy the outdoors, which is overwhelmingly safe.