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Statement on COVID-19 For People with Chronic Conditions


March 15, 2020

SACRAMENTO, CA – On behalf of California Chronic Care Coalition, Chronic Care Policy Alliance, and My Patient Rights representing people with chronic conditions, we know many in our community are understandably concerned about the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. As a coalition of organizations representing people with increased risk of severe illness and complications, we feel that it’s important to keep you updated on developments with COVID-19.

President Trump announced a national emergency in a live press conference on Friday, March 13th, to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health emergency within the United States.

Here are some takeaways:

• President Trump also said that this declaration would get up to $50 billion to states to aid in this fight.
• Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will have the authority to waive certain regulatory restrictions in health care settings in order to give health care providers and facilities maximum flexibility.
• The President said that the federal government are working in collaboration with the private sector to make more test kits available. By his estimate, there will be about 5 million more test kits available in the next month.
• Drive-Through testing will take place more commonly across the country, at locations including Walmart and Target parking lots.
• The President encouraged people who do not have symptoms to refrain from getting tested, but assured that the government is working to ensure those who fit testing criteria will be able to do so. This comes after news that most major insurers will waive copays for testing related to COVID-19.
• He asked that Americans follow updated public health guidelines including postponing large gatherings, limiting in-person meetings, and cancelling work-sponsored travel.
• The administration is also restricting visitors to nursing homes except in some cases including end-of-life scenarios.
• The administration will be temporarily waiving interest on student loans and purchasing bulk crude oil for U.S. reserves.
• He ended by explaining that we will all have to make sacrifices, but it would be worth it for the “long-term gain” as a nation.

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses responsible for respiratory infections such as the common cold but can be more severe. They are also responsible for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is a recently discovered coronavirus. The virus can cause mild to life-threatening illness and poses an especially high risk for older adults and people with underlying medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Emergency warning signs include but are not limited to difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this a pandemic. While that does mean a change in characterization, WHO and public health departments around the world will continue to engage in necessary and appropriate precautions. There isn’t reason to panic, but it is important to take this threat seriously and engage in appropriate measures to ensure the best outcome for all members of the chronic disease community.


What people with chronic conditions should know.

Older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and those with a serious medical condition (i.e., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes) are at highest risk of severe illness caused by the virus.
We are advising that patients with chronic conditions be extra cautious while officials and the health care industry work to address this public health crisis.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, including:

• Staying at home as much as possible.
-Have food and other groceries and supplies delivered either through social or commercial networks and stock up.
• Avoiding large crowds or events.
• Increasing ventilation by keeping windows open, adjusting air-conditioning, and staying in well-ventilated rooms.
• Avoid all non-essential travel, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.
• Clean all utensils and surfaces regularly.
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 30 seconds.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue.
• Avoid touching your face.

Regular face masks cannot protect you against catching the virus from others but can help prevent spreading it if you are ill. N95 respirators are effective in protecting you from catching the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that households with an immunocompromised person or persons with chronic conditions take extra precautions. This includes having other members of the household conduct themselves as if they pose a significant risk to the individual by, for example, washing hands thoroughly before and after contact with the individual. This can also mean having a protected space for vulnerable family members, if possible.

Because COVID-19 hits people with serious health conditions the hardest, we advise that you take any symptoms you experience seriously and have open ongoing discussions with your doctor. For all other health-related medical visits, consider utilizing telehealth unless an in-person visit is needed. Be sure to stock up on all medical supplies and prescriptions. If you have issues obtaining a longer lasting supply, ask your pharmacist about having your prescriptions mailed to your home.


Where can I go for help?
If you think you may have COVID-19, stay at home and please contact your doctor by telephone as soon as possible. You can also call your county’s health agency for next steps. While there may be extended hold times, it is important to stay on the line and notify officials and your health care provider so they can determine how to best help you.

My Patient Rights will continue to serve as a resource for patients across the country. If you need help navigating the health care system or getting the health care you need, please visit www.MyPatientRights.org. Most major insurers announced that there will be no copays or surprise billing associated with testing for COVID-19 and will expand coverage for treatment. If you are unable to get coverage for COVID-19 testing, contact your state’s regulatory agency. You can find out how to reach them by visiting http://mypatientrights.org/File-A-Complaint.

The California Chronic Care Coalition and Chronic Care Policy Alliance also are committed to supporting members of the chronic disease community and any individual affected by COVID-19. We aim to ensure you have access to quality, affordable health care. You can follow us on Twitter at @CAChronicCare, @ChronicCarePA, and @MyHealthRights to keep up with the latest developments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are providing updates to their website as they develop.

Please visit the following pages additional information or help: