Information About COVID-19
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that can cause a variety of symptoms in human beings ranging from mild to fatal. This virus is currently considered a pandemic and has spread rapidly throughout the world, including Virginia and Charlottesville. Symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection may be respiratory like a cold (runny nose, cough, sore throat, low grade fever) or gastrointestinal like a stomach flu (particularly diarrhea). Adults over the age of 60 years and those with underlying illnesses are at greater risk for more severe disease. The typical onset between exposure and symptoms averages 5 days (the range is from 2-14 days), and the typical onset between exposure and severe illness appears to be averaging about 11 days. COVID-19 spreads easily and rapidly between people via respiratory droplets, even from those who don’t yet have symptoms or those who never develop any symptoms. The droplets can infect people directly, or be transferred to hands or hard surfaces, from which the virus can survive and infect other people for up to 72 hours. Because asymptomatic people can spread the virus to others quickly and efficiently it is critical to practice social distancing and masking to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
Symptoms and Symptom Management
- If you develop any concerning symptoms it is critical that you isolate yourself from others immediately, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
- Please call the office with any concerns or questions.
- The Virginia Department of Health has a very useful overview here.
- If your symptoms are mild, we will recommend that you remain at home, in isolation and treat with over the counter remedies such cough syrup, decongestant, and good hydration. We can recommend specific therapies if needed. We do NOT recommend seeking face to face medical care for mild symptoms at our office, an urgent care or the ER.
- If your symptoms progress and you develop breathing difficulty, severe abdominal pain or dehydration it is important you get in touch with us immediately, or call 911 if you do not feel safe remaining at home.
Stay At Home and Wear Masks
The single most important thing you can to do protect yourself and our community from the spread of COVID is to STAY HOME whenever possible and to WEAR MASKS when ever you are in public places. As of 8/1/20, it is now mandatory to wear face coverings in both indoor and outdoor public settings where it is not possible to manage the minimum social distance of 6 feet. It is safest for yourself and our community to simply wear masks when you are in public, regardless of the circumstance.
- Go out only when necessary for supplies, groceries and medication, and remain kind and thoughtful when doing so. Purchase only what you think you will need for a 10-14 day period to ensure that everyone will have access to basic necessities. Many stores offer online ordering and touchless pick up.
- You should have a 30-90 day supply of any medications you require on a daily basis.
- Many local gyms are creating opportunities for socially distanced and hygienic exercise. There are also many options for exercising in the safety of your own home, or outdoors while maintaining a 6-10 foot distance from others. Keep active and safe.
- Consider bringing some variety in to your home cooking by picking up take out from many of the local restaurants that have remained open. With the sustained impact of COVID-19 on this industry, they need our support now more than ever. You can find a list of local restaurants and what options they offer here.
- Social distancing is critical, but remember to support those in your community who may not be able to manage this on their own such as elderly and those with chronic illness.
Minimize Exposure Risk
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. You should sanitize with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- It is presently mandatory in Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesille that all people wear a non-medical grade mask or face covering that covers their nose and mouth if they are out in public. Failure to do so in the county can result in misdemeanor charges. These are now widely and readily available, but you can also make them yourself-without sewing. Custom Ink, a local company, is also making masks. You can find those here.
- Even when wearing your mask, try to avoid touching your face.
- Try to maintain as much distance as possible, ideally at least 6 feet, from other people you encounter.
- Clean surfaces with alcohol or ammonia containing products, soap and water, or a home made bleach spray containing 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. A list of cleaning solutions believed to kill the coronavirus can be found here.
- Wipe down surfaces outside of your home before you touch them.
- You may want to consider wearing washable gloves (like gardening gloves) when in stores. Just make sure to remove them before getting in the car to drive home!
What About Testing?
There are two types of testing available, antigen/PCR testing and antibody testing. Antigen/PCR testing obtained by a nasal or nasopharygneal swab can tell you if you are actively infected with the virus. Antibody testing is a blood test that tells you if you have been exposed to a coronavirus, of which SARS-CoV-2 is one, in the past.
Antigen/PCR testing is available at the following sites.
- UVA Riverside Clinic if you have symptoms that may be caused by COVID 19. Results from the Riverside Clinic are typically available within 48 hours.
- MedExpress on 29 North. Results from MedExpress can take 5-12 days to come back.
- CVS on 29N/Rio Road is also offering testing for patients who qualify.
- The Virginia Department of Health also runs testing events.
- Dr. Hargrove has limited testing kits, and cannot, at this time, guarantee that your test will be run rapidly at UVa or Sentara. This means that tests obtained and sent by her can take up to 10-12 days to be resulted.
Antibody testing can be ordered by Dr. Hargrove. She will provide you with a lab order to bring to Northridge or Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital’s main lab. The usefulness of antibody testing is not clear for the following reasons:
- We don’t know right now if having antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 means that you are safe from getting the virus again (like chicken pox/measles virus) or not (like seasonal influenza).
- The antibody blood tests currently being used will be detect antibodies to 5 different types of coronoavirus, of which SARS-CoV-2 is one; the test cannot distinguish between antibodies to the different types. All it can tell you is that you were exposed to a coronavirus (not specifically SARS-CoV-2) and this caused an antibody response. The other subtypes of coronvirus are widespread in the community and have been for many years, and they also cause respiratory symptoms that we typically think of as common cold symptoms. This means a positive test may not be due to COVID-19 and could potentially make you think you were protected from COVID-19 even if you weren’t.
You can read about guidelines for testing here.
Reliable Sources of Information
There are many brilliant people actively working to address the current pandemic. It is critical that you get inform yourself from reliable sources. I recommend: