Across Beth Israel Lahey Health, we are working around the clock to support the patients who need us and prepare for what will inevitably be a significant surge in patients. In light of national supply shortages, we are doing everything in our power to obtain the personal protective equipment our staff needs. We have also established in-house testing capabilities that will allow us to expedite diagnosis, as well as separate triage areas where we can evaluate patients with respiratory symptoms or other potential symptoms of COVID-19, while keeping other patients and staff safe. We have expanded our telehealth capabilities so that we can foster social distancing. We urge everyone in our communities to follow public health recommendations for social distancing so that we can limit the spread of this virus and ease the mounting pressure on our health care system.
One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease is to practice social distancing.
Social distancing is deliberately increasing the space between you and others, aiming for 3-6 feet of separation. Good hand and respiratory hygiene — especially when sneezing and coughing — are also essential. Here are other steps you can take:
- Avoid close contact with individuals who have a fever or cough.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or tissue. Throw away the tissue. Wash your hands after.
- Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces using household cleaning sprays or wipes.
If you have symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills or body aches, contact your doctor. Please avoid coming to the emergency department for evaluation of non-urgent symptoms, but as always, if you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.
The risk of developing the disease depends on the intensity of exposure: how close you were to an affected person and for how long. Contact your health care provider for guidance and watch for the development of symptoms like cough, fever, chills, body aches and shortness of breath.
Not everyone who is feeling sick needs to be tested for COVID-19. Your doctor can help you determine if you should be tested based on a number of factors.
Your doctor can help you determine the best location, if you meet the criteria for testing.
If you are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, and are well enough to care for yourself at home, you should remain home except to seek medical care. Isolate yourself for the duration recommended by your health care provider or local health department. Remember to seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen. Take these steps to limit the risk of spreading the disease to others:
- Stay in one room and use a separate bathroom, away from others in your home.
- Clean your hands often, washing for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains 60-95 percent alcohol.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Wear a facemask if you must be around people or if you need to go to a medical facility for evaluation (after calling first).
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- Clean all high-touch surfaces every day.
Quarantine is separation of a person believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease, but who is not yet symptomatic, to prevent the possible spread of the disease.
Self-isolation is separation of a person believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease.
Make sure you are monitoring yourself for symptoms, and monitor the patient’s symptoms closely. Call your health care provider if you develop fever, cough or shortness of breath or if the patient’s symptoms worsen. To reduce the risk of illness spreading:
- Limit contact with the patient. The patient should stay in another room and use a separate bathroom if possible.
- Clean your hands often, washing for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains 60-95 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid sharing household items with the patient.
- Clean all high-touch surfaces every day.
- Wash laundry thoroughly.
There are multiple groups that are considered high-risk for serious illness. See the CDC’s guidance here. While those with high-risk characteristics may be able to stay at home if symptoms are mild, very close monitoring for serious symptoms may be advisable.
If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:
- Stay home as much as possible if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your community.
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Watch for symptoms and emergency signs (such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse or bluish lips or face). If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor.