Coronavirus Information




COVID-19 Assessment Questions



There are several questions you may consider to assess your personal exposure to Coronavirus. If you answered yes to the questions listed below, you may be at risk.

Questions for potential symptoms

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
  • Muscle Pain
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Chills
  • Repeated Shaking with Chills
  • New Loss of Taste or Smell
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Have you been in contact with anyone who has been recently diagnosed with coronavirus or someone suspected of having coronavirus and is waiting for test results?

*Please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html and https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices for updates.

  • IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, PLEASE CALL 911 AND NOTIFY THE DISPATCH PERSONNEL THAT YOU MAY HAVE CORONAVIRUS.
  • If you feel you need medical attention, please call your physician for further instructions. The physician may conduct a telemedicine appointment with video and phone, recommend testing, or provide instructions for the Emergency Department.
  • If you feel you may be at risk but do not need medical attention, please self-quarantine and isolate from others within your household for 14 days before coming for an appointment and/or visiting a patient.
    • Clean your hands repeatedly, washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Wear a facemask when around other people. If one is not available, try to stay in a room at least 6 feet away from others.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
    • Do not handle pets or other animals when sick.







COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions



As of January 25, 2021

Q. Has the vaccine been officially approved for use?

A. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a mechanism used to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Q: What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?

A: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an Emergency Use Authorization is a mechanism used by the FDA to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. For an EUA to be issued for a vaccine, there must be adequate manufacturing information to ensure quality, safety, and consistency (e.g. clinical trials) and the FDA must determine that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.

 

Q: Is the vaccine safe for distribution?

A: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Further, studies have shown that there is a low risk of complications. According to the FDA, a small percentage of the trial participants experienced fatigue and/or headaches, similar to the mild complications associated with the flu vaccine.  If you have had a serious reaction to a vaccine in the past, we recommend you discuss your concerns and medical history with your provider or specialist before accessing the vaccination portal to request the vaccine.

 

Q: How effective is the vaccine?

A: Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven to be approximately 95% effective against COVID-19 after the second dose. Efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics; observed efficacy in adults 65 years of age and older was over 94%.

 

Q: Are two shots required or will receiving one shot also be effective?

A: Receiving one shot is not sufficient. It is necessary to receive both shots from the same manufacturer to be effective.

 

Q: When can I get my vaccine?

A: We are closely following the vaccine approach as directed by the U.S. Center  for Disease Control and Prevention, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and local Departments of Health. We are not vaccinating patients at our practices at this time but will keep you informed of when the vaccine is available.

 

Q: How is the vaccine administered?

A: The vaccine is administered in the form of an injection, like a flu shot. With both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, two injections are required and administered approximately three to four weeks apart.

 

Q: Is the injection and/or vaccine painful to receive?

A: Like a flu vaccination, there can be minor soreness at the injection site.

 

Q: Are there any contraindications?

A: We recommend that you consult your personal physician if you have any questions regarding your personal health situation. Specifically, you may want to speak to your personal physician if any of the following conditions apply to you: 

  1. History of severe allergy to a vaccine or injectable medication
  2. Pregnancy or planning to be pregnant in the next 2 months
  3. Breastfeeding
  4. Presently taking any blood thinners or have a clotting or platelet disorder
  5. Immune system disorder or actively taking immune suppressive therapy
  6. Presently enrolled in a COVID treatment or prevention study
  7. If you have had a COVID infection and been treated with monoclonal antibodies within the last 90 days

 

Q: Are there any side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Studies have shown that there is a low risk of complications. Potential side effects are similar to the flu vaccine with a small percentage of trial participants experiencing fatigue and/or headaches.

 

Q: If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: You should still receive the vaccine. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, the CDC recommends that you get the vaccine even if you already had a COVID-19 infection.

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. The vaccine is more effective, and studies have shown that it protects you longer than having had a COVID-19 infection.

 

Q: Is there any danger to getting the vaccine if I am positive but asymptomatic? Should I be getting tested for antibodies?

A: According to the CDC, there is no current indication that an asymptomatic carrier is at risk for an adverse reaction if an asymptomatic carrier receives the vaccine.

 

Q: How does the vaccine for COVID-19 work?

A: There are many articles explaining how the COVID-19 vaccine works. For the most accurate information, please visit the CDC’s website, specifically https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html.

 

Q: How long will it take for the vaccine to begin protecting me?

A: It normally takes about two to three weeks for cellular immunity to develop and several days for a full antibody response after the second dose.

 

Q: Will I be able to choose which of the two available vaccines I wish to receive?

A: No, we are not able to accommodate individual requests as to which vaccine is administered. The CDC and FDA information shows the two vaccines have similar efficacy and safety profiles.

 

Q: What is V-Safe?

A: V-Safe is a new smartphone-based, after vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-Safe will use text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients for health problems following COVID-19 vaccination. The system will also provide telephone follow up to anyone who reports significant adverse events.

 

Q: Will the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines be effective against the new   strains being encountered in the United Kingdom and Europe?

A: Both the CDC and Pfizer indicate that the vaccine will be effective against new strains of the COVID-19 virus.

 

Q: Why would a vaccine be needed if we can do other things, like social distancing and wearing masks, to prevent the virus that caused COVID-19 from spreading?

A: Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received 2 doses of the vaccine?

A: Yes. Receiving the COVID vaccine is strongly encouraged by the CDC. In order to end this pandemic, we must also use all the tools at our disposal including wearing a mask when in public, maintaining social distancing, and frequently washing hands and/or using hand sanitizer.

 

Q: When can I stop wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with others       after I have received the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: There is not enough information currently available to determine if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus.








COVID-19 Vaccine Important Facts



As of January 26, 2021

Fact 1: The COVID-19 vaccines can be trusted.

All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people to make sure they meet safety standards and protect adults of different ages, races, and ethnicities. There were no serious safety concerns.

 

Fact 2: The vaccine’s side effects are typically very mild.

You may have some mild side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. Common side effects are similar to the flu vaccine. These include pain and swelling at the injection site and fever, chills, tiredness, and headache. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.

 

Fact 3: The vaccine is not expensive.

There is no cost to patients to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine.

 

Fact 4: The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19.

The two approved COVID-19 vaccines in the United States do not use the live COVID-19 virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine primes your immune system to recognize and fight off the virus but does not cause an infection. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after the second vaccination.

 

Fact 5: You need the vaccine even though the survival rate seems high and many people’s immune systems are strong enough to fight diseases.

The vaccine protects you and also protects everyone that you come into contact with. Even if COVID-19 does not make you as sick as others, there is still a high likelihood that you could pass it on to someone else who might not be so fortunate. Widespread vaccination programs protect populations, including those who are most at risk and those who cannot be vaccinated. The vaccination is essential to ending the pandemic.

It is true that a high percentage of people who get COVID-19 are able to recover. However, some people develop severe complications. More than 1.7 million people around the world have died from COVID-19 – this does not include those who have survived but needed to be hospitalized. This disease can damage the lungs, heart and brain, and may cause long-term health problems that experts are still trying to determine January 26, 2021

 

Fact 6: We know the ingredients of both vaccines.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have published the ingredient lists for their vaccines. In addition to the COVID-19 mRNA for the spike protein, both vaccines contain lipids (fats) that help deliver the mRNA into your cells and a few other common ingredients that help maintain the pH and stability of the vaccine. Despite theories circulated on social media, they do not contain microchips or any form of tracking device. The common ingredients used in these vaccines have been used for many years.

vaccine chart

 

Fact 7: You will benefit from the vaccine even if you have had COVID-19.

You should still receive the vaccine. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, the CDC recommends that you get the vaccine even if you already had a COVID-19 infection.

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. The vaccine is more effective, and studies have shown that it protects you longer than having had a COVID-19 infection. January 26, 2021

 

Fact 8: These vaccines will not alter your DNA.

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. Once the mRNA performs this function, our cells break it down and get rid of it.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. That immune response and making antibodies is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

 

Fact 9: Even if you get the vaccine, you still need to wear a mask and continue social distancing.

We should continue to use all methods available to use to help end the pandemic. Even if you get the vaccine, you should continue to wear a mask around others, wash your hands and practice physical distancing.

 

Fact 10: Even with vaccines, it will take time for the pandemic to be over.

This will not happen until a large percentage of the population is vaccinated. Given the strong recommendations from the CDC, the American Nurses Association, American Medical Association and other reputable healthcare advisory boards, we encourage everyone to receive the COVID vaccine as timely as possible.

Source: Center for Disease and Prevention. For more information, please visit the www.cdc.gov.








Telehealth Visits via Smartphone, Laptop or Desktop



In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), telehealth visits expand access to medical care without visiting the doctor’s office for primary care and internal medicine, as well as a broad range of specialized care including cardiology, orthopedics, and women’s health.

STEPS FOR EXISTING PATIENTS

  1. Accept Doctor’s Appointment
    1. Open the secure email / calendar invitation
    2. Accept invitation
    3. Note: Please do not reply or use this email for regular communication.
  2. Download Software (2 Options)
    1. Microsoft Teams: https://teams.microsoft.com/downloads
    2. FaceTime: https://www.apple.com/itunes/
  3. Activate Appointment: 30 minutes prior to appointment,
    1. Microsoft Team (desktop, laptop, or smartphone):
      1. Open the email/calendar invitation.
      2. Click the link Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
      3. Type your name in the box
      4. Click the Camera and Microphone icons to enable video and audio
      5. Click “Join Now”
    2. FaceTime
      1. Confirm doctor’s office number in contacts
      2. At time of appointment, accept doctor’s call.
  4. Technical Difficulties: If the above steps do not work, please join the conference by dialing the number in the email invitation. Your visit will be conducted over the phone instead of video.

You will be in our virtual waiting room until your telehealth visit begins. Your physician or caregiver will join you at the time of your appointment. If you need assistance or have questions, please call your provider’s office.

We appreciate the privilege of caring for you.

For patients who prefer to see their doctor in person, Steward Medical Group clinics are open and continue to welcome patients for their appointments. Steward Health Care is closely monitoring COVID-19 and is following guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization, and is working closely with local and state health departments in the care of patients.








Coronavirus (COVID-19) Antibody Testing



Were you recently ill and wondering if you had COVID-19?  Have you been in self-quarantine at home and wondering if it’s now safe to return to work or resume other activities?

Nasal swab testing for COVID-19 can only tell patients if they currently are infected with the virus. However, an antibody test, also known as a serologic test, can reveal if you have been infected with the virus in the past.

Steward Medical Group is now offering antibody (serology) testing at many of our practices. Your Primary Care Physician and Nurse Practitioner teams can address your concerns and questions about COVID-19 and antibody testing through an in-person office visit, or a telehealth virtual visit.

Schedule An Appointment

Some of the most common questions and concerns we can offer you guidance on include:

  • Are you currently ill and have questions or concerns that you may have COVID-19?
  • Have you been exposed to someone with known COVID-19 and have questions regarding that?
  • How do we test for COVID-19? (nasal swabs and serologic testing can be reviewed)
  • When is serologic testing appropriate and what do the results of a serologic test mean?
  • What is the appropriate personal protective equipment and best personal hygiene practices to avoid contracting COVID-19?
  • How do we treat COVID-19?
  • Recovery from COVID-19, Available Support, Repeat Testing and Vaccine Outlook


How Does Antibody (Serology) Testing Work?

  1. Doctor’s office – Visit your doctor’s office or one of our laboratory partners
  2. Blood draw – a sample of blood will be drawn and tested
  3. Results to be shared from your doctor’s office


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are antibodies?

A: Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes after you have had an infection. Antibodies help increases your body’s ability to fight off a disease if you are exposed to it again. There are different antibodies depending on the time after infection and they can be measured to determine recent or prior exposure of infection.

Q: What is the difference between an antibody (serologic) test and a COVID-19 test swab test?

A: The nasal swab test, also called a nasopharyngeal test, is the test that is administered to identify whether a person has COVID-19 present in their nasal passages at the time the test sample is taken. It will not determine whether a person has had a prior infection of COVID-19.

The antibody, or serological test, is conducted by taking a blood sample from a person who has had COVID-19 and has developed antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19, known as SARS-CoV-2. The detection of antibodies identifies a past infection of the virus. The test will not show if a person is currently infected.

Q: What does a positive antibody test result indicate?

A: A positive result can reveal if a person was previously infected with COVID-19. It also shows that the person has developed antibodies to the virus. A positive test can also be a false positive, and even if a person tests positive for antibodies, it does not mean the person is immune to COVID-19. It can also be used to determine how widespread COVID has been in a particular population as well as identify potential donors of convalescent plasma to help patients who are seriously ill from the virus.

Q: What does a negative antibody test result indicate?

A: If a person tests negative for COVID-19 antibodies, it means there is no evidence that the person has had a past COVID-19 infection. If a person’s symptoms continue or have cleared up less than two weeks before the blood draw was taken, it may be too early to detect the presence antibodies.

Q: Who should be tested?

A: The COVID-19 antibody test used by Steward Medical Group is available to people of all ages who are not showing any symptoms related to COVID-19. People who are still recovering from COVID-19, or who remain sick, cannot be tested using the serologic test. Your Steward Medical Group provider can see you with a telehealth virtual visit or face-to-face visit to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for antibody testing.

Q: How much does the testing cost?

A: Many health insurance plans are covering the cost of COVID-19 antibody testing. We recommend you check with your health plan if your doctor determines you are an appropriate candidate for serologic antibody testing.

Q: Who gets the results of my test?

Your personal health information is protected by law under the HIPAA Act. Steward Medical Group follows all guidelines and direction provided by the US government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to HIPAA. If you have a patient portal account, your provider will communicate with you securely and confidentially about your test results. You should also expect your provider’s office to call you directly with the results of your COVID-19 antibody (serologic) test to inform you of the results and respond to any questions you may have.