June 19, 2020

COVID-19: The latest information

As our communities reopen, Kaiser Permanente remains vigilant in our work to slow the spread of the virus.

While staying at home and social distancing have slowed the spread of COVID-19, the recent increase in cases throughout the nation is a reminder that the virus is still active in our communities and is just as capable of spreading as it was in the spring. If the resurgence of cases worsens, local and state governments may need to reinstate stay-at-home orders.

“We continue to recommend a cautious and calm approach to resuming activities as we enter the suppression phase of this pandemic,” said David Witt, MD, national infectious disease leader at Kaiser Permanente. “It is important to continue healthy habits to protect yourself and others from the continued risk.”

Staying safe as communities reopen

Kaiser Permanente recognizes the importance of connecting with others, especially after such a challenging period of isolation. If you choose to gather with family and friends this summer, there are ways to stay safer while socializing — including knowing the symptoms of COVID-19, staying home if you aren’t feeling well, always wearing a mask, keeping your distance (at least 6 feet even with a mask), and maintaining healthy hand hygiene.

At the same time, health departments and health care organizations are leading community-level efforts to get outbreaks under control and prevent new cases. When viral transmission slows down and the rate of new infections becomes manageable, we traditionally rely on testing, vaccines, and treatments to stop virus spread.

For COVID-19, we still don’t have a vaccine. Without it, an effective suppression strategy relies on 3 critical components: 

  • Prevent the spread using community and public health tools to quickly identify new cases, provide care for those who need it, and prevent new infections. These tools include testing, monitoring, and contact tracing to rapidly recognize, respond to, and contain potential outbreaks.
  • Flex the delivery system to allow hospitals, physician groups, and others to separate COVID-19 patients from other patients and to respond to changing needs as hot spots develop.
  • Retain expanded treatment capabilities, including the ability to increase treatment space, staff, and supplies to manage surges — even as we reopen the health care system with new social-distancing measures in place.

Given the emphasis on testing, monitoring, and contact tracing and our experience in confronting highly infectious diseases, we expect to be better able than at the start of the year to identify and predict potential hot spots and surges of patients seeking care for COVID-19. This will allow us to tailor surge planning to meet local needs.

As part of this effort, Kaiser Permanente continues to invest in internal capacity to support additional testing — including purchasing additional instruments, working with suppliers to increase the number of test kits available, and expanding internal lab testing facilities.

Reopening facilities

Kaiser Permanente continues to closely monitor COVID-19 in all the communities we serve, especially in those regions experiencing an increase in cases. As we gradually welcome patients back into our facilities for routine and specialty care appointments and procedures, our focus is on the safety of our members, patients, and staff.

Following guidance from infectious disease and public health authorities, we have implemented physical distancing in lobbies and waiting areas. We strictly adhere to mask requirements and visitor restrictions, and all staff are using appropriate personal protective equipment. These precautions, along with our intensive cleaning and hygiene regimens, create safe environments that promote social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Consistent with the national trend, Kaiser Permanente has experienced a significant decline in emergency department visits during the stay-at-home orders, and Kaiser Permanente physicians and researchers are studying this data to understand and address the impact on patients. As always, Kaiser Permanente emergency departments remain fully open, available, and safe for those who need to receive care during this pandemic. People in need of care for serious conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, and appendicitis, should not avoid or delay it.

“Our priority continues to be ensuring the health and safety of patients, members, and our employees,” said Dr. Witt. “Our infectious disease experts are working closely with public health authorities to advocate for practices that will help us suppress this disease and prevent another rise in COVID-19 cases.”

Continue to protect yourself and others

If you are a member who is experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell, or if you have questions about COVID-19 testing or coverage, please call your doctor or the number on the back of your Kaiser Permanente medical card. Additional guidance can be found on the Coronavirus and COVID-19 page on kp.org.

We can all play a part in stopping the spread of COVID-19, according to Dr. Witt. We continue to encourage everyone to practice the following healthy habits to protect themselves and others:

  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
  • Comply with public health orders. Local and state governments are easing restrictions in phases and may reinstate stay-at-home orders if there is a resurgence in cases. If you or anyone in your family develops any of the symptoms listed above, call your doctor.
  • Wear a mask when in a community setting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth when in public settings. This public health measure is in addition to social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and other everyday preventive actions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.