COVID-19 is legit and real. This is not the flu. It is serious. It can kill.
Like you, I have been watching the development of the pandemic — eyes wide open in disbelief while holding my breath, trying not to touch my face, washing my hands, social distancing, sheltering in place, self-quarantining, scaling down my routine medical practice and peeking into the immediate future to the tough economic times that will be the secondary “infection” that follows.
How to Ride out the Storm
I am hoping to provide you with information and some resources to know what is real and not-real as we follow this all together. It is essential that we are not idle as we ride out the storm. There are many things we can do to make this time meaningful and productive. It takes some creativity and re-focus, but in the end we will emerge better for it.
Keep us all in prayer as we all practice the social distancing/self-quarantine/shelter-in-place which is the essential part of limiting the spread of this virus. Use this time for reflection, for meditation, for prayer, for drawing near to our Creator. Make this one of the things that “sticks” when this is over or we get to the “new normal.” Prayer, self-reflection, that 5 minutes of stillness to realize that we are not in control of this world (now or ever) shapes our choices and our priorities. We need to draw our strength from our God who sustains us.
We have been in touch with leaders in our specialty, including colleagues who are in the worst affected area of Italy and South Korea, and we are mentally preparing for 3 months before we see us coming out of this. The critical time window is in the next 2 weeks for Texas according to some of the mathematical models that are out there. https://covidactnow.org/ Right now, our actions can determine the infection rates in our communities and the burden to the medical system and the economic recovery. Be prepared to be vigilant and be patient. Stay home.
Dozens upon dozens of online help sources here. You can take a walk outside (while observing social distancing, of course). Or do your running in place, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, planks, burpees, skaters, duck walks, froggers, downward dog, yoga, etc. during your favorite online streaming program or CD/music source. There are many community exercise outlets that are creating new solutions to group exercises or you can make up your own. I do best when I write it out beforehand or put it on my schedule.
Our community has resources and needs. Speak up! Online meetings, conference calls, group chats all have the potential to share stories and meet those needs with resources as we come together to be neighbors and friends. Meeting community needs through networking is efficient and rewarding. There are online tools and services that make communication possible and decrease the isolation we are all feeling. You need internet service and a device with a microphone +/- camera. The camera use is nice because everyone can see each other and it makes it feel more “in person.”
Five, Tackle Projects
There is always that list of things you can never get to — now is the perfect time. Cleaning out emails, preparing taxes, reading a novel, landscaping, weeding the flower beds, pruning trees, starting spring cleaning, organizing the garage, reworking a business plan, redoing the filing system, improving your website, improving efficiencies in your business, and playing the guitar are on my list. You can make your own. Kids can be involved in these, too, depending on their age. Some of us will have to also take on supervising school from home during the public school hiatus.
What We Are Doing at Heart of Texas Eye Institute
Like so many service-oriented businesses, our office is deferring routine appointments and surgery. The resources we would consume in personal protective equipment (if we could even get more at this point) would deplete the supplies needed elsewhere. Sanitizing supplies are also needed on the germ warfare front lines, and conserving supplies for those needs is critical. That said, patients do have needs and we have developed some strategies to meet those needs.
Our office is converting to telemedicine access for patients.
The Center for Medical Services (CMS) and other major insurance payers are allowing telemedicine virtual visits with physicians. This service can be billed to your insurance plan. A cash rate is available, as well.
First, a patient (new or established) calls to make an appointment. Once the appointment is set, an email is sent to the patient with a link to the virtual waiting room for the doctor (Lara Dudek, MD or Lisa McIntire, MD). You need an internet connection and a device with a browser, microphone, and camera. There are instructions for how to link to the online waiting room. Payment arrangements can be made over the phone. If you are a new patient, we have options for that, too.
Obviously, our exam will be limited, but we may be able to initiate a therapy to start before considering an in-office visit. We will be open for follow-up care and urgent/emergency visits on a limited basis, minimizing exposure to other patients. We feel this is important to decrease trips to the ER and to keep you and your families away from potential “hot spots” for exposures.
Here is an article I think well describes the situation we are in; it provides a good background and analyzes responses of multiple nations around the world. It reinforces how we can help each other by the simple loving effort of being apart physically but together in spirit.
Emerging therapies are showing some promise. If you have a significant exposure, there is some evidence that anti-malarial therapy may be helpful. Zinc is a supplement that may be effective in inhibiting the activity of the COVID-19 virus (or be synergistically effective alongside an anti-malarial).
These treatments are becoming the “new toilet paper” and will run in short supply if everyone crashes the doors at the same time. Sources of zinc may already be in your medicine cabinet. Multivitamins, anti-cold remedies, and eye vitamins are all potential sources of zinc that may provide some increased support. As with everything about this virus, data is limited, studies are few, and experts are extrapolating from treatment strategies from other strains of the virus. If you have a zinc supply and can take 15 mg/day, this dose may be helpful for prevention.
You are in our prayers. Stay calm, stay vigilant, but do not stay idle. Please reach out if you need us.