We at Foxhall Internists want to take this opportunity to thank all of our patients who read our email newsletter regularly, and are gratified when this leads to thoughtful discussion about the topics included. Internal medicine is a wide-ranging field, and we try to address a variety of subjects in our monthly newsletter.
Several patients contacted us after receiving our recent newsletter asking for additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been providing guidance to our patients on an individual basis based on their personal situations, but at this time we feel the most important message we can give to all of our patients is to continue to do everything you can to reduce your own risk of exposure to the virus.
In the Washington, DC area we have benefited from local government policies informed by recommendations from public health officials, as well as responsible personal choices of many individuals to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus. Our infection incidence is lower than many urban areas in the country, and the occupancy rate of our hospitals remains below their capacities. We need this to continue.
Our choices need to be based on prioritizing what we want to see happen. We want this pandemic to be over as soon as possible. We want to keep ourselves and our families safe. We want our schools to open in the fall. We want our economy to remain viable, both locally and nationally. To accomplish these goals over the long term, we need to continue to change our lifestyles accordingly. The more successful all of us are in reducing our risk of exposure to the virus now, the better our situation will be in the fall and afterward.
In recent weeks, one of the most common subjects of questions has been whether it is safe to travel and stay in a home with family or friends from different households. Some areas have set what we feel are inadequate policies stating that if someone has a negative COVID-19 test before arriving, they do not need to quarantine themselves from others. The unfortunate reality is that although a positive COVID-19 test reliably indicates the presence of an infection, a negative test does not rule out the possibility that someone is an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, and therefore still contagious. The best approach to staying in a home with people from other households remains for everyone to quarantine themselves for 14 days first.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have all had patients who have had COVID-19 infections after contacts with family members and friends who have been asymptomatic at the time, and unfortunately this has continued in recent weeks. We all need to continue to make decisions based on the assumption that anyone can be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. In short, without a vaccine, our behavior is our only defense against the virus. Specifically, it is essential that we all:
- Wear masks. The scientific evidence is clear that wearing a mask reduces viral transmission and infection. A three-ply cloth mask that fits snugly around your chin and nose is recommended.
- Socially distance. We need to be six feet apart to reduce person-to-person spread, most commonly through respiratory droplets from people who do not exhibit symptoms (and may go on to develop them later).
- Practice careful hand hygiene. The virus dies quickly with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
- Socialize only outdoors (also six feet apart and with careful hygiene; it is okay to take your mask off if you are strictly distanced). Research has indicated the risk of viral transmission is 19 times lower being outside rather than inside.
- Keep up to date and follow the directions of your state and local authorities:
Dr. McBride recently posted a list of answers to frequently asked questions we receive on COVID-19 issues. This is available on her website: www.lucymcbride.com/updates/2020/7/10/covid-19-update-for-july-10-2020.
If you have questions about your individual situation, please discuss them with your doctor. We will continue to work on measures to keep you as safe as possible when you need to come to our office, and we plan to remain available to you for care of all of your medical conditions.
Please do everything you can to stay safe.