This is an unprecedented time for all of us and there is understandably a lot of fear and anxiety in the community about the COVID-19 coronavirus. We anticipate that many people in our community will become infected with COVID-19, but it is important to note that the great majority of patients do not experience serious or dangerous symptoms, and as the virus takes hold in Rutland County, some patients will require hospitalization, and if that occurs we are here and ready to take care of them.

As you may have heard, testing for COVID-19 in Vermont is not readily available at this point which is frustrating for us and community members. An important thing to remember, though, is that testing in most cases does not affect the care we would provide at all. We don’t need the test results to know how to treat you and we don’t need those results to help guide you on the best way to protect yourself and family.

We do want to ask you to monitor yourself for symptoms that might indicate you have an infection of COVID-19, and if you have those symptoms take steps to protect yourself and do what you can to prevent transmission. Be especially aware of signs and symptoms of concerns ,and if you notice them in yourself or those you care about, please come to the hospital.

Symptoms are:

1. Shortness of breath or severe difficulty breathing.

2. Prolonged chest pain.

3. Severe abdominal or back pain.

4. Vomiting.

If you or a family member develops these symptoms, we want you to come to the Emergency Room so we can take care of you.

Most people who have COVID-19 develop typical cold and flu-like symptoms such as a cough, a low- grade fever and muscle aches and fatigue. Though these symptoms are uncomfortable, they are not dangerous and can be managed at home with rest, extra fluids and medicine like Tylenol.

We all would like to know if we or a family member has COVID-19. Based on the transmission we are seeing now; we must assume that many more cases are forthcoming. It is safer to assume that we have it (with or without symptoms) so that we can take the necessary steps to protect those around us by self-isolating while we recover, staying six feet away from others and washing our hands often.

We recognize that maintaining the recommended 6-foot distance at home can be difficult, but it is important to protect yourself and prevent spread. Safe distancing includes sitting apart from each other on the couch, sleeping in different rooms if possible and eating meals with 6 feet of distance between you and others. You can find detailed guidelines on our website on what self-isolation and social distancing means as well as additional steps you can take.

Right now, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and family is to say at home, stay isolated, don’t go out, keep your distance from other and only go out if you must for medical appointments or for supplies. These tactics are the best shot we have in Rutland County to protect ourselves, our family members, neighbors and friends and to make sure we get through this as best as possible.

Thank you for all the support you have shown our hospital and all our caregivers here. Mostly though, thank you for doing your part by staying home and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This week’s Health Talk was written by Dr. Todd Gregory, medical director at the Emergency Department of Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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