Special COVID-19 Issue: 3.22.2020
Dear Patients and Friends,
I hope this newsletter finds you in good spirit and good health. These are indeed strange days for us all. Please know that our staff is doing well and our office is functioning, though we are trying to limit patients coming in the office as much as possible to minimize possible COVID-19 contamination/exposures.
We are like most other practices in that our supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are limited. We are down to just over 100 face masks which we have had on back order for over two months. We have an even lower number of N95 masks which will be preserved for high risk encounters with symptomatic patients.
I am concerned that our community is going to see a marked uptick in cases in the coming few weeks. My conversations with ER physicians in Beaufort is one of great concern. Many individuals with symptoms have not been tested due to very limited test kits and personal protective equipment. The concern for all is that other asymptomatic individuals are unwittingly spreading the virus and hence the potential for a spike in cases in coming days. Beaufort Memorial is supposedly going to have a test which can give results in 2 hours by the end of the week though that testing will be rationed to symptomatic individuals.
In an ideal world, we would be testing just about everybody. That would allow individuals with the virus who are asymptomatic to adhere to strict isolation. I equate this current phase to the hectic days prior to a massive hurricane coming. Everyone is scurrying about with a sense of drama in the air. Once the hurricane hits, you would not dare leave your house amidst 130 mph winds. My strong advice is to assume it is overhead now— stay home, limit any exposure to others with social distancing and adhere to overzealous hand washing. Unlike a hurricane, this storm can’t be seen or heard and therein lies a source of anxiety for all.
That being said, if you do develop any symptoms please call my office or my cell phone. I and my staff will do anything to help our patients in need. There continues to be limited testing and due to the lack of personal protective equipment such rationing will persist into the next few weeks. We have received numerous calls from patients. basic procedure is to screen you on the phone. If your symptoms include a fever (100.4 or greater) and any respiratory symptoms we would first swab you for influenza (and possibly strep though that is much less likely). We have a limited number of COVID-19 test kits so that would be the next step if the influenza test was negative. While screening everyone would be my preference, we are not able to do that at this time due to the limited supplies of PPE.
Many people have seen that the drug hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil) can be used to treat COVID-19. I have called every pharmacy in the region and am on the list with three different pharmacies to get that drug when it becomes available. Also, we have direct access to drug suppliers and are on their lists for the medicine. Unfortunately, it is on backorder currently at all the national drug suppliers. Rather than write a prescription for every patient to stockpile themself (adding to the national shortage and perhaps denying symptomatic individuals the medicine), please know that I am actively pursuing a stockpile for our practice that I can then dispense to symptomatic patients. Also, a word of caution on hydroxychloroquine and other treatments in the news is that the benefits of these meds is all anecdotal and thus it will be important to monitor the many drug trials that are actively being conducted.
And now to the best part of this letter, let me propose some activities for you all. I have long thought that with so many amazing and talented patients as this practice is blessed to have that it would very cool to add a shared creative space to this newsletter. I am going to share a poem I recently wrote at 2 am as an initial example as well as some recent photos. Could I ask you to email me a poem, short story, favorite recipe, or photo that you would agree to share with others. You can elect to have your name attached or not. Might I also start several top 10 lists that I will solicit your input to complete.
I have added a few nice pieces of writing that I have enjoyed recently on current events. Please also review the below information for more details on COVID-19.
Take care, wash your hands, practice social distancing, lay low for the time being and we will all make it through these days. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you want to discuss and certainly with any medical issues.
Clark Trask, MD