An infectious disease expert explains how to protect yourself and others — and how to safely get the care you need — during flu season and rising COVID-19 cases.
While another daunting surge of COVID-19 cases is posing a serious challenge to health care systems nationwide, Kaiser Permanente, along with the rest of the health care industry, has some advantages that didn’t exist when the pandemic began 9 months ago. These include more effective inpatient and outpatient care based on new treatments and more knowledge about the virus; more robust testing and contact-tracing; and a more stable supply of personal protective equipment.
However, even with these advantages, COVID-19 continues to pose a dangerous risk to many people, especially older individuals and people with underlying health conditions.
“Kaiser Permanente has taken the steps we need to prepare for a surge, and we are rising to the challenge of caring for a growing number of people with COVID-19,” said Stephen Parodi, MD, national infectious disease leader at Kaiser Permanente. “There is hope on the horizon as vaccines become available, but basic safety precautions remain essential to take us safely through the winter months.”
Dr. Parodi shared additional insights on the recent COVID-19 surge and staying safe and healthy this winter.
Kaiser Permanente undertook significant preparations in the spring to treat the initial surge of COVID-19 cases and has maintained a continuous state of readiness since then. This has allowed our facilities and staff to manage the current growth in hospitalized cases, expertly treating patients who have COVID-19 while safely caring for patients with other conditions.
Our telehealth capabilities allow us to deliver high-quality care to patients in the comfort and safety of their homes. Telehealth appointments are convenient and easy, and they also reduce unnecessary travel, minimize the number of people in our facilities, and save personal protective equipment and other resources for those who need them most.
Simple safety precautions remain the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as flu:
We also urge everyone 6 months and older to get their flu shot as soon as possible this winter.
It’s important to seek care promptly when you need it. Kaiser Permanente provides many virtual options, including video and phone appointments, for our members to access the same high-quality, evidence-based care they know and trust.
For Kaiser Permanente members, digital e-visits can offer the quickest path to screening, care, and advice for flu and COVID-19 symptoms. You can simply sign in to kp.org, answer a few questions, and receive a personalized care plan based on your responses. In many areas, e-visits can also be used to request or schedule a COVID-19 diagnostic test.
If you need to be seen in person, it is safe to come in. At Kaiser Permanente, we’ve made several important changes in our facilities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include mask requirements, intensified cleaning and disinfection, mandatory symptom screening, physical distancing, and in many areas contactless check-in. We also isolate COVID-19 patients from other patients so all can safely receive the care they need.
Hope is on the horizon as vaccines begin to become available. The data is promising, but we’ve got to get through this winter season by taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Please call Kaiser Permanente’s dedicated vaccine hotline at 1-855-550-0951 (TTY 711) to hear a recorded message with the latest COVID-19 vaccine information. It’s also available in Spanish.