United States – Baystate – How to keep yourself safe from the COVID-19 illness

Updated on June 12, 2020

 

A message from your Baystate Heart Team: 

 

We have a COVID-19 problem globally, nationally and regionally.  COVID-19 is particularly dangerous to older patients such as you and it is particularly prevalent in hospitals. So the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to stay home, avoid close social contact and stay out of hospitals.

We want to protect you from COVID-19 while also taking care of your heart problems. Under normal circumstances we provide timely surgical care to insure the best outcomes from a cardiac perspective.

The current COVID-19 pandemic makes it necessary to carefully re-evaluate this approach to insure your safety. We as surgeons and cardiologists need to balance the COVID-19 risk with your heart risk and reach a compromise on the optimal time to schedule your operation. With that in mind,  in an effort to minimize your exposure to COVID-19, it may be necessary  in some cases to postpone your operation if the heart risk is low. In other cases, if your heart situation is pressing and delaying surgery increases your heart risk, urgent surgery will need to be undertaken even in face of the COVID-19 risk.

While awaiting surgery if you experience any of the following symptoms which may be indicative of COVID-19 exposure, please notify our office immediately: cough, fever, running nose, shortness of breath, sore throat or change in bowel habits.

Please also notify us of any worsening heart symptoms such  as increasing frequency of chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness, ankle swelling etc.

We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time and want to assure that all efforts are being taken to insure your safety at Baystate Health. We thank you for your trust and the privilege of participating in your care.

 

 

 

What is COVID-19? 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is a new illness that causes lung infections. COVID-19 is part of a large family of viruses that include both the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)5.

The virus was first discovered in late 20195 and has since spread to countries all over the world. The World Health Organization calls the world-wide spread of an illness a “pandemic”. The world is now working together to stop the illness from spreading further.

 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

 The most common symptoms are5:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher  
  • Feeling tired
  • Dry cough

 Other symptoms include5:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Headache 
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chills (feeling cold and shivering)
  • Loss of taste or smell


Most people who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms. They can safely recover at home without any medical help. For every 6 people who catch COVID-19, 1 will have trouble breathing5.

People who have a higher chance of getting serious symptoms are5:

  • People who are over the age of 65
  • People who are overweight  
  • People who have weaker immune systems
  • People who have long-term health problems

Examples of long-term health problems are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, liver disease and cancer.

This means that you have a higher chance of having serious symptoms if you catch COVID-19. 

 

Call your surgery team if you have these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher  
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Trouble breathing
  • Diarrhea 

This could be a sign of COVID-19 or other serious health problem5. Your local healthcare teams can help you manage this. If your symptoms are getting worse and you do not think it is safe to wait, visit your local emergency room or call 911. If you call 911, tell them that you may have COVID-19.

 

How does someone catch COVID-19? 

The most common way to catch COVID-19 is from someone else who has it.

There are a few ways that this can happen5:

  • Breathing in when a sick person coughs or sneezes around you
  • Breathing in when a sick person exhales around you
  • Touching anything that has the virus on it, then touching your face
  • Touch a sick person, then touching your face 

  

How do I protect myself and my family from COVID-19?

 There are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Practice social distancing6. Less person to person contact makes it harder for the virus to spread to another person. This means staying at home and away from areas with groups of people. Make work from home arrangements, if possible. Enjoy social activities such as worship and music events online, instead of in-person. Click here to learn more about social distancing. 
  • Wash your hands with soap throughout the day5. This will help kill any virus on your hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time. Remember to wash between your fingers, under your nails and around your wrists. Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. Choose one with at least 60% alcohol2. Click here to watch a video about handwashing. 
  • Do not touch your face with your hands5. The virus can enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth. If you touch something with the virus, then touch your face, you may get sick.
  • Disinfect surfaces that are touched every day2. Some examples are toilets, doorknobs, desks, chair handles, light switches, counter tops, phones, faucets and sinks. Click here to see a list of approved products. Click here to learn how to make your own disinfectant.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze5. Use a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw out the used tissue into a closed garbage bin right away. Then, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.
  • Stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from other people2. This helps prevent you from breathing in tiny drops of liquid from the sick person.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others2This helps prevent you from breathing tiny drops of liquid onto other people. You should wear a cloth mask even if you are not feeling sick. Do not wear medical face masks meant for healthcare workers. Click here to learn how to make your own cloth mask.

 

How will my surgery team protect me from COVID-19? 

Your surgery team cares deeply about your health. They are working hard to balance your safety between catching COVID-19 and your heart problem. Your healthcare team will be making some changes to your surgery care plan to help with this.

Here are some things they may do to protect you:

  • Change the date of your surgery 
  • Change the dates and times of your surgery appointments
  • Meeting you online using a video meeting tool instead of in-person at the hospital 

Check your email and phone messages daily so you do not miss any hospital messages. Your healthcare team will talk to you about your safest options. Together, you will come up with a plan to keep you safe and healthy. 

 

Call your surgery team if you notice new or sudden:

  • Angina (chest pain)  
  • Trouble breathing
  • Heart beat that is not normal
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Swollen ankles 

These could be signs that your heart problems are getting more serious. Your healthcare team will help you manage this.

 

How can I prepare my family?

Make a household plan1. Make sure you have enough normal daily items for 2 weeks4. This includes medicines, food, drink and other household items. Know your local food delivery options.

Make plans for childcare, pet care, and working from home. This will help in case you start feeling sick. Call your older family members, friends and neighbors to make sure they have enough supplies.

Click here to learn more about household planning. 

 

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

If you have mild symptoms such as a runny nose, tiredness or sore throat, stay at home and practice self-isolation until you recover. Self-isolation means staying away from all people. This will help protect everyone around you.

To help protect other people you should:

  • Wear a face mask when you are around other people3
  • Stay in a separate room from other people at home3
  • Use a different bathroom at home if possible3
  • Put the toilet lid down before flushing4
  • Stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from other people3
  • Do not use public transportation, taxis or ride shares3
  • Do not share personal items like cups, plates, towels, or toothbrushes3

Most people can recover safely at home without any medical help. Staying at home will prevent your healthcare teams from getting overwhelmed. Help them make sure they have enough resources to care for the sickest people in your neighborhood.  

Click here to learn more about taking care of yourself and when to stop social isolation. 

 

Call your surgery team if you have these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher  
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Trouble breathing
  • Diarrhea 

This could be a sign of COVID-19 or other serious health problem5. Your local healthcare teams can help you manage this. If your symptoms are getting worse and you do not think it is safe to wait, visit your local emergency room or call 911. If you call 911, tell them that you may have COVID-19.

 

Call 911 or go to your local emergency room if you have these symptoms:

  • Severe trouble breathing (hard to take a breath or speak in single words)
  • Severe chest pain
  • Sudden onset of confusion (not knowing what is going on around you)
  • Fainting
  • Blue lips or skin

These symptoms need medical attention right away⁶. Your local healthcare teams can help you manage this. 

 

Where can I learn more about COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
World Health Organization

  • Learn how the world is working together to control this illness
  • Learn how to protect yourself

 

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): When and how to use masks
World Health Organization

  • Learn how to wear a non-medical fabric mask safely
  • Learn how to use a fabric mask
  • Learn how to care for a fabric mask


Myth Busters
World Health Organization

  • Learn the truth about common COVID-19 myths


Government Response to Coronavirus, COVID-19
USA Government

  • Learn how the US is working to control this illness


Protect yourself financially from the impact of the coronavirus
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

  •  Learn about financial support for your family and business


Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Learn how to protect yourself
  • Learn what to do if you feel sick
  • Learn how to prepare your home
  • Learn how to manage anxiety and stress


Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2
United States Environmental Protection Agency

  • An up-to-date list of products that kill COVID-19


Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Fighting Products
American Chemistry Council

  • An easy-to-read list of products that kill COVID-19


Managing Stress and Anxiety
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Tips on how to manage stress for adults and children 
  • Tips on how to manage stress for first responders 
  • Tips on how to manage stress for people after quarantine 

 

Phones Numbers for State and Local Health Departments
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • A list of health department phone numbers 

 

Updates:

  • April 29, 2020. Updated with EMMI COVID-19 patient education video.
  • April 27, 2020. Updated symptoms of Coronavirus.
  • April 15, 2020. Added a new section on when to call 911.
  • April 7, 2020. Added cloth masks to precautions and obesity, liver, and kidney disease as risk factors. 

 

References: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Get Your Home Ready.”  Last modified March 18, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/get-your-household-ready-for-COVID-19.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself.”  Last modified April 4, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): What To Do if You Are Sick.”  Last modified March 18, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html
  4. Government of Canada. “How to isolate at home if you have COVID-19” Last modified March 18, 2020. www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home.html
  5. World Health Organization. “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19).“ Last modified March 9, 2020. www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): When to Seek Medical Attention.”  Last modified April 13, 2020. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html#warning-signs
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Symptoms of Coronavirus.”  Last modified March 20, 2020.
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
  8. Wolters Kluwer. “Understanding COVID-19 and How to Stay Safe”. Last modified April 8, 2020. https://ce-vid.wolterskluwer.com/watch/ujhaiwHWqpb2dEQBx5UqgL?
  9. World Health Organization. “When and how to use masks.“ Last modified June 8, 2020. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks