July 24, 2020

Staying safe as COVID-19 cases rise

Our infectious disease expert offers advice to help members and patients protect themselves and get the health care they need.

Virtual visits make it easy to receive high-quality care from home.

By Stephen Parodi, MD, National Infectious Disease Leader

Over the past weeks, the nation has seen a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. Kaiser Permanente remains ready to safely and expertly treat an increase in patients with COVID-19, as well as provide primary and specialty care appointments and procedures.

We continue to encourage everyone to practice healthy habits to protect themselves and others from continued risk. Stephen Parodi, MD, national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente and executive vice president of external affairs, communications, and brand at The Permanente Federation, shares tips to stay safe and healthy as COVID-19 cases rise.

Why are COVID-19 cases rising now?

Measures like staying at home and practicing physical distancing helped slow the spread of COVID-19, but they did not eliminate COVID-19. The virus is still active and spreading. As communities have reopened, we have seen rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. In some areas, these increases are quite significant, causing local and state governments to tighten restrictions.

There is currently no vaccine or cure for COVID-19. Our physicians and researchers are working on several projects to further understanding of COVID-19, including trials of 2 investigational vaccines selected by the National Institutes of Health for high-priority development.

What can I do to protect myself from COVID-19?

It’s still important to follow healthy habits. These include maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance from anyone you haven’t been sheltering with and always wearing a mask even with this distance.

Healthy hand hygiene, including washing or sanitizing your hands frequently and correctly, helps stop spread.

And keep a close watch on your own health by scanning for the common symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills/shaking chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell. If you experience these symptoms, please contact your doctor.

Do masks matter?

Yes. A cloth mask reduces the risk you will spread the disease to others and helps prevent you from touching your face. Because the virus is spread by droplets, the mask is a barrier to prevent you from spreading the virus to others if you don’t know you are infected.

We now have more evidence that masks are an effective way to stop transmission. Masks are required for anyone who enters our facilities in both clinical and nonclinical areas.

What do I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you or a family member has symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and call your doctor. Kaiser Permanente members should first call the appointment and advice line number on the back of their membership card or send a secure message on kp.org. Please contact us before you come in so we can direct you to the most appropriate care — which might be a phone or video appointment — and take precautions to protect other members, patients, and employees.

Kaiser Permanente members who have flu-like symptoms and are 18 or older can also complete an e-visit to get online care and advice, be screened for coronavirus, and get treatment for symptoms if necessary.

What are my options for getting care that is not related to COVID-19?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaiser Permanente’s telehealth capabilities have made it easy for most members to receive high-quality care while staying safe at home.

We offer, and in many cases recommend, virtual visits such as scheduled video or phone appointments for many primary and specialty care needs. Members can also use secure email, e-visits, and, in some regions, chat, to connect to care from the safety of their homes.

While many visits can be done by telephone or video, we encourage all patients to complete their scheduled preventive care visits, including immunizations, screenings, and procedures as an important part of staying healthy during this pandemic. And our Kaiser Permanente emergency departments remain open, available, and safe. People should not avoid or delay care for serious conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, and appendicitis.

Is it safe to come in for an appointment?

Yes. We’ve made changes to create safe environments that help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include enhanced cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces around the clock; strict mask requirements; symptom screening upon entering a Kaiser Permanente facility; supporting physical distancing by rearranging common spaces and adding prompts and signage; and adding hand sanitizing stations throughout our facilities. We also separate COVID-19 patients from other patients and procedures in our medical centers so all can safely receive care.

Should I be tested for COVID-19?

We offer diagnostic testing by doctor’s order for members with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as certain members without symptoms as needed. Testing capacity across our system may vary depending on local conditions, such as the emergence of hot spots, increased hospitalizations, and availability of testing supplies. 

We’re not recommending antibody testing outside of research studies at this time. Currently available antibody tests have variable accuracy, risk false positives and false negatives, and provide limited information. 

Read more about how Kaiser Permanente is addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Additional guidance for KP members can be found on the Coronavirus and COVID-19 page on kp.org