Frequently Asked Questions About Coronavirus
Below are frequently asked questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) as it relates to our patients and community. The FAQs below are subject to change based on the receipt of more current information as the situation is changing rapidly across the U.S. and world. The information on this page is subject to modification, pending guidance from the WHO, CDC, and Mississippi Department of Health.
Q: How can you tell the difference between covid-19, the flu, and allergies?
A: The symptoms of flu and covid-19 are very similar and this makes it very hard to tell the difference between the two. The only way to tell is by testing. Allergies, on the other hand, tend to be less severe.
Q: Are people with disabilities at a higher risk of contracting covid-19?
A: Depending on the disability, some people may be at higher risk. Those with disabilities affecting lung function and the immune system are more vulnerable.
Q: How can I tell the difference between a regular cough and a cough caused by COVID-19?
A: Coughs vary from person to person. If you can tell that your cough is different from your normal cold cough, you should get tested. The coughing caused by COVID-19 is usually a dry, bothersome one.
Q: How does the FDA’s approval of malaria drugs, for the emergency use of fighting this pandemic, affect Mississippians?
A: Studies have shown that drugs which are typically used to treat Malaria may be beneficial to COVID-19 patients. However, this does come with some risks and will, most likely, be saved for critically ill patients.
Q: Is it safe to purchase take-out food during this pandemic?
A: There is no evidence that this spreads by food.
Q: Should everyone cancel their summer plans due to this virus?
A: Yes, it is very unlikely this will get better by the summer.
Q: Are there enough hospital beds for the people who get sick from COVID-19?
A: We do right now. We’ve increased the capacity by delaying elective and non-urgent procedures, so we actually have more beds open now than we did before this outbreak.
Q: There are new reports saying that a loss of taste and smell are now symptoms of COVID-19. Is this true?
A: Yes. A group of Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctors in England posted an unofficial report stating that the loss of taste and smell were strongly associated with patients who tested positive for COVID-19.
Q: When should I be tested for Covid-19?
A: Given the limitations in regard to testing supplies, people should be tested when they feel sick or when they have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Q: Soap and water or hand sanitizer?
A: The gold standard is soap and water. Soap and water remove more germs and are more effective than hand sanitizer. You must wash well enough though. Singing happy birthday twice through or a 20-second wash is a good rule of thumb.
Q: Is there a specific temperature that can kill this virus?
A: We do not know at this point.
Q: With the blood shortage right now, is it safe to donate blood?
A: Yes. Exercise the same precautions that you would when going anywhere at this time. Blood donation centers are taking the necessary requisite steps to make sure you are safe. We absolutely need people to donate blood so please sign up today!
Q: The number of Coronavirus cases in Mississippi has increased significantly. Why is that?
A: This could be due to the fact that we are testing more, or it could be that more people are getting infected. Per capita, Mississippi has the 12th highest coronavirus infection rate in the United States.
Q: What is most concerning about the recent spike in cases? What can we do better?
A: We are mostly concerned with the attitudes of people in regards to social distancing. Social distancing is currently the most important factor that we can control in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Q: Can someone have COVID-19 and get a negative test result?
A: A: Yes, it’s absolutely a possibility. This particular test is what’s called a PCR test, and those tend to be very, very accurate. However, there are multiple steps along the way where things could fall through and make the test less accurate.
When this is all over, we’ll have a better sense of how good this test really is. Right now, we’re hopeful that the sensitivities are over 90% which would mean it’s a good test.
Q: If my wife is expecting, can I be in the delivery room?
A: It depends on the policies of the individual hospital. Please check with your health care provider to see how these policies will impact you.
Q: Should asthma patients use their nebulizers daily as a preventative measure to keep their lungs healthy? Would it make a difference in regards to the risk of getting COVID-19?
A: First, it depends on what medication(s) you’re taking. There are two types of asthma medications. One is the rescue inhaler, albuterol, and the other is one that you’re supposed to take on a daily basis. If you’re given a medication that your physician has directed you to take daily, then you need to take it. In regards to your rescue inhaler, there is no evidence to suggest taking that on a regular basis is going to help prevent COVID-19 or even improve your asthma symptoms. In fact, there can be significant side effects taking that medication regularly. Don’t do anything beyond what your physician has asked you to do.
Q: I have diabetes and a pace maker. Am I considered “high risk?”
A: Diabetes does put you at an increased risk. We believe because it is a chronic medical illness, it does sometimes affect your immune system. You can also be a high-risk person based on your age.
Q: With the spread of the Coronavirus, should I cancel my upcoming appointment?
A: Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) have recommended that non-essential, non-urgent meidcal appointments be postponed due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19. It is important that you communicate with your provider’s office for steps on how to proceed regarding your upcoming appointment. Our providers and staff are working to meet the individual needs of every patient. Additionally, it is important that patients take their medications as prescribed.
Q: Why do we care about COVID-19 so much? Isn’t the flu more deadly?
A: We care about COVID-19 because it is a more severe illness than the flu and it spreads rapidly. People can get more sick from this, and because the majority of people will have mild symptoms, they can potentially pass it on to others without knowing that they are ill. COVID-19 has about a 0.6% mortality rate compared to the flu which is 0.1%. So, six times more people will die from this illness than from seasonal flu.
Q: Are there enough testing supplies and masks for patients?
A: Hattiesburg Clinic is in contact with the Mississippi State Department of Health and commercial laboratories investigating the process of making our own tests. We have plenty of masks and personal protective equipment as of now, but we need to pace ourselves because supplies are in short supply nationwide. We are screening patients prior to entry to ensure that those who need them are receiving them.
Q: How is Hattiesburg Clinic working with the Mississippi State Department of Health to address this issue?
A: Hattiesburg Clinic is in constant contact with the Mississippi State Department of Health to facilitate the fastest and most efficient means of transporting tests to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. Once delivered, the tests are processed at maximum capacity and the results are then sent back via a web portal.
Q: How do people catch this virus?
A: COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets that are sneezed or coughed out. That is why it is recommended that people maintain a distance of six feet from one another.
Q: Is there a blood shortage right now?
A: Yes, there is a blood shortage currently and because of that there is a national call for doctors to perform only necessary procedures.
Q: Do children get ill with this virus?
A: Every illness has a different kind of response. Children do not seem to be as severely impacted by COVID-19 and that could be due to a number of reasons. One theory is that kids don’t mount as strong of an immune response as adults do against this virus. Another theory is that since COVID-19 is a coronavirus, like many other cold viruses, and since children are so often exposed to colds, they may have some inherent immunity.
Q: Why are we canceling school for children?
A: By isolating children at this time, we help to prevent the spread of this virus between children at school. If those children were exposed at school, they could then carry the virus with only very mild symptoms and spread it to older family members who could have a more severe reaction.
Q. Can I bring children and family members/caregivers to my appointment(s)?
A: Please avoid bringing children under 12 who do not have an appointment to the clinic. While children appear to be less susceptible to COVID-19, we would like to limit their exposure and potential for them serving as transmitters of the virus. We also ask that you bring only one additional person to your appointment(s).
Q: With so many people going into quarantine at this time, won’t this prolong the duration and spread of COVID-19?
A: Yes, we actually want to prolong how long it takes for people to get the virus. The longer it takes for a person to get this illness, the less likely it is to be severe. Every time someone gets this virus, it changes the virus. Because COVID-19 cannot live on its own, it relies on the human host to change it and allow it to replicate. Prolonging the spread of COVID-19 gives the virus time to become a more mild illness.
Q: Why is this virus worse than the flu?
A: The reason this virus is more problematic than others is because it is a milder virus among the healthy population. Some people infected by COVID-19 will have no symptoms, but they can easily pass it on to those who are prone to having heart and lung diseases.
Q: Can someone have COVID-19, get tested, and their test results come back negative?
A: Yes, this is what we call a false negative test. Our tests are 90% accurate but they do have a 10% chance of not being correct.
Q: How are things operating in health care facilities in the Pine Belt?
A: Health care workers at Hattiesburg Clinic are greeted by nurses who check their temperatures and ask if they have had any symptoms of COVID-19. This happens every time they enter the facility.
Q: Is it even possible to protect the most vulnerable people in our community from this virus?
A: Yes, this is a public health war. All of us need to do our part to keep this virus from spreading. The more that it spreads, the more likely it becomes that the most vulnerable members of our community will be affected.
Q: Is this being blown out of proportion by our state and local officials?
A: No. We have learned from the states and countries that came before us that we need to act quickly. For every single case we diagnose there may be dozens more that we don’t know about. The more quickly we can establish these quarantine measures, the better.
Q: Are our state and local officials doing enough to protect us?
A: The hope is that people will receive the messages being issued by our state and local officials about this disease and voluntarily do as medical professionals ask without having to legislate these recommendations.
Q: Louisiana has so many cases. Will Mississippi also be heavily impacted?
A: Yes. We here in Forrest County interact a lot with New Orleans and, perhaps because of this, we are seeing a rise in the number of cases here. Our numbers will likely continue to increase as a reflection of this close interaction.
Q: Why will the week of March 23 be a “bad week” for COVID-19 cases?
A: There are two reasons for this. For one, we are testing more. Now that we have diagnosed the first cases, we are actively looking for more. Secondly, every person who is infected can potentially infect two or three additional people.
Q: Should I have my extended family and friends over for dinners and gatherings during this quarantine?
A: Please don’t. Living with the household that you have is an acceptable risk level, but having friends and family over removes your isolation. It puts everyone at risk.
Q: Does ibuprofen worsen the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: There was initially concern that ibuprofen could worsen the symptoms of COVID-19 because of the way that the virus attaches to the cells of the lung. However this recommendation has been reversed and it is believed ibuprofen is safe to use.
Q: Is there anything more that I should be doing to protect my family and myself?
A: The key to stopping the spread of this virus is to isolate yourselves as much as you can. Aside from going to the grocery store and vital services, we should be limiting our contact with others as much as possible. If everyone could stay indoors and not interact with other people for three weeks then this thing would be gone. Now, of course, there are situations in which we need to leave our homes for supplies and medical assistance, but the closer we can get to isolation the better off we will be.
Q. What should I do if I have cold or flu symptoms?
A: If you must see your medical team and have active symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms including congestion or runny nose, please contact the office of your appointment before your appointment. Nurses will provide guidance.
Q. Are patients screened for COVID-19 at their appointments?
A: Yes, when scheduling appointments, all patients are being screened for their travel, their contact with someone who has COVID, and for symptoms of respiratory illness. Every person who enters our clinics will go through screening. If a patient has multiple appointments in a day, the patient will be screened only once; however, patients will have screening done each day they have an appointment. Please pay close attention to signs at the entrance of every building for additional information.
Q. Should I wear a mask in the clinic?
A: You should wear a mask in the clinic if directed to do so by staff.
Q. If my family members/caregivers and I do not have a fever or respiratory symptoms, should we wear a mask in public?
A: No, if you don’t have symptoms, there is no need to wear a mask, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Masks are intended to prevent patients who are showing symptoms from spreading disease to others.
Q. Should I be worried about getting infected with COVID-19 at Hattiesburg Clinic?
A: Hattiesburg Clinic has extensive and thorough infection control procedures, and we will do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our community. We have protocols and systems in place to keep all patients, visitors and healthcare workers safe.
Q. How long are patients contagious if they have COVID-19?
A: The virus is believed to have a maximum incubation period of 14 days. This means that patients can be contagious even if they don’t have symptoms.
Q. Are cancer patients at greater risk of contracting COVID-19?
A: According to the CDC, patients with blood malignancies and other conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, and hypertension are at most risk, and patients who are in active treatment for any type of cancer are also at risk. Patients who are not in active treatment should also be cautious.
Q. Is Hattiesburg Clinic testing patients for COVID-19?
A: Hattiesburg Clinic began testing patients and providers who exhibit COVID-19-related symptoms in February 2020. As noted above, all of our primary care locations and Immediate Care facilities have the ability to test for COVID-19.
Q. How long does it take for results to come back?
A: Generally, we can get COVID-19 test results back in 12 to 24 hours if they are sent to the Mississippi Department of Health. Some patients’ tests may need to be sent to a different lab, and those can take a few days to come back.
Q. Is there anything I can do to keep myself, my family and friends safe?
A: The most important steps to take are the same as for every cold and flu season:
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
- Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.
- Plan how you will take care of sick family members. Make plans for childcare if you are sick or if your child is sick. Have a thermometer at home so you can check for fever if you or a loved one feels ill.
- Try to get a few extra months’ worth of your prescription medications, if possible.
- Stay informed – check the CDC site regularly for new updates.
Q. How is Hattiesburg Clinic working to slow the spread of COVID-19?
A: Hattiesburg Clinic has implemented the following polices to safeguard our patients, community and staff against the potential spread of COVID-19:
- Non-essential travel of all employees has been restricted.
- We have implemented an option for our non-clinical employees to work from home.
- Non-essential group meetings have been suspended, and pharmaceutical representatives, vendors, and meal delivery are suspended.
- ALL physicians, advanced practice providers, employees, patients, visitors, and vendors will be screened for fever prior to entry of our Main Clinic and 28th place location from 6 am – 6 pm.
- Entrances to Main Clinic Building and 28th Place have been reduced:
- Only entrances available will be North (Urology Entrance) and South (Owl Drug Entrance) entrances at the main Clinic. No other entrances will be accessible.
- 28th Place will only have the main front entrance available (parking lot entrance).
- Security will be stationed at all entrances
- If anyone leaves the building, he/she will be screened each time he/she re-enters.
Thank you for trusting Hattiesburg Clinic with your care.