Posts for category: Uncategorized
June 8, 2020
As Spring turns to Summer, we thankfully find ourselves on the declining edge of the COVID-19 curve. With fewer and fewer cases and hospitalizations, we are now moving slowly along with the phased reopening of society. Having completed phase 1, we now move onto phase 2 - the gradual and stepwise re-opening of restaurants (for outdoor seating) and some retail business with restictions. While this re-opening brings well-needed relief to our economy and our senses, it by no means signifies the end of this crisis. In fact, with the opening up of society comes an increase in the risk of exposure. Understandably, many of our families have come to us with questions about how to adapt as we navigate these uncharted waters. Should our children go to day camps if they open? Should they finally be allowed to play with some of their friends? And what about us, can we begin to mingle more with our friends, neighbors, and family? As quarantine fatigue sets in and the warm weather beckons, these are the questions we all find ourselves asking. Though the temptations are huge, we must remain vigilant to successfully enter our "new normal".
Every family is unique
This is obvious but when it comes to how we segue into a more open society, every family's unique situation is important. Some families have decided to form a "COVID Bubble" - that is, to merge with one or more people or families who practice equally strict infection preacutions. This is possible to do safely only if you can trust in everyone's strict adherence to the same rigorous standards of safety. It is difficult to do if some of the adults work outside of the home or regularly come into contact with others outside of "the bubble". Likewise, children must limit contact to those within "the bubble". The more people or families allowed into "the bubble", the less safe this is.
The uniqueness of each family situation is also important when it comes to weighing the risks and benefits of attending summer camps, classes, shopping, and dining out. While the benefits of these activities are huge in terms of physical activity, child development, and emotional and psychological health, the risks involved must be considered. If your family or social circle includes people at higher risk of complications from infection (for example older individuals and those with underlying health conditions), then you will need to consider these factors when making decisions about how to change your social movements.
Respect the 3 W's and the 3 C's
When making these important decisons about moving through society, it is critically important that we adhere to the 3 W's:
1. Wear a mask at all times when you may come within 6 feet of someone outdoors, or 10-12 feet indoors.
2. Wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer when not near a source of soap and water.
3. Wait at home if you're sick.
It is equally important to avoid the 3 C's:
1. Closed spaces with poor ventilation.
2. Crowded places with groups of people.
3. Close-contact settings, such as one-on-one conversations.
Here are some useful articles to help with your social planning:
As we work through this together, we at Amherst Pediatrics continue to be available to answer your questions and to provide you with all of your pediatric health care needs. All of our staff have been trained to meet the requirements of the phased approach to reopening.
Amherst Pediatrics in the era of COVID-19
Keeping you safe in our office
As discussed below, most of our visits are being conducted virtually. However, while we are making every effort to keep you home, there may be some occasions for which an in-office visit is most approprate. Please be assured that Amherst Pediatrics takes your safety extremely seriously, and we have put work-flows in place to make sure your in-office visit is as safe and stress-free as possible.
- Physical distancing: Floor markers have been placed throughout our office reminding people to keep a safe distance from others.
- Mandatory mask policy: Anyone over 2 years of age entering our office is required to wear an appropriate face covering over their mouth and nose at all times. There are no exceptions to this policy. If for some reason you do not have an appropriate face covering, please call our front desk upon arrival and a staff member will meet you at your vehicle to provide you with one.
- Provider use of PPE: Our providers always wear N-95 masks, eye protection, and gloves when interacting with patients. Providers come to work wearing a clean set of hospital scrubs or office-only clothing.
- Meticulous cleaning: Our office is cleaned meticuloulsy on an ongoing basis. All exam rooms, clinical-use surfaces, and equipment are disinfected after each and every use.
- Managed appointment times: Appointments are scheduled so that well-vists and illness-related vists occur during different times of the day.
- Strict precautions for respiratory and COVID-19 patients: Patients we believe may have COVID-19 are typically directed to appropriate outside facilities for testing and/or evaluation. Any patients we see with respiratory illness or who are thought to possibly have COVID-19 are seen outside of our office in a rear parking lot. For these encounters, our providers take all appropriate precautions, including the use of full PPE.
In-Office Well Care Visits
Because many children have understandably been kept home over the past couple of months, many have fallen behind on receiving vitally important immunizations. Becasue of this, and based on current recommednations, we are requesting that all children and adolescents who are due for well care visits and are in need of immunizations be scheduled for in-office well-care visits. If you or your child is due for a check-up and is need of immunizations, and you have not already been contacted by our office, please schedule an appointment now through the MyChart - Patient Portal.
In-Office Urgent Care Visits
While we are making every effort to keep you home, there may be some occasions for which an in-office visit is best. If you think you or your child may need to be seen in our office, or are unsure if an in-office or virtual evaluation is more appropriate, please send us a message with your concern through the MyChart - Patient Portal so we can help determine the best way for us to help you.
Amherst Pediatrics continues to make every effort possible to keep you safe at home during this unprecedented time. To that end, we have successfully implemented telemedicine or Virtual Visits for many types of appointments. These visits may be scheduled through the MyChart - Patient Portal. Please see the Virtual Visit page for more information about scheduling and participating in a Virtual Visit.
- Virtual Well Care: We are successfully conducting modified check-ups through our integrated Zoom video interface. These well-care visits are being scheduled for patients of any age who are not due for immunizations and who do not have another specific need to be seen in-person in our office.
- Virtual Urgent Care: Many illnesses or other concerns can be managed through Virtual Visits rather than through typical in-office visits. If you are unsure whether your particular concern is suitable for a Virtual Visit, please send us a message through the MyChart - Patient Portal and we will determine which type of visit is most appropriate for your particular concern.
- Virtual Follow-up Care: Many of our patients require regular, routine follow-up care to manage chronic issues such as asthma, diabetes, eczema, acne, and ADHD. These visits are exprementy important to make sure your condition is being managed appropriately and to reassess any medications you may be taking. If you or your child is due for a routine follow-up visit, please schedule one now through MyChart. The typical recommended timeline for these follow-ups varies, so please check with us if you are unsure when you need to be seen back.
- Virtual Behavioral Health Care: Regular follow-up care for behavioral health issues is extremely important. If you are in need of a follow-up visit, please schedule one now. Again, if you are uncertain whether you are due for a follow-up, please send us a message through the MyChart - Patient Portal and we will be happy to assist you.
Want to be part of the COVID-19 solution? Just answer the call.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, along with Partners In Health, has created the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC). This program focuses on reaching out to the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients to help others who have been potentially exposed to the virus. CTC gets their information about positive COVID-19 patients from data that all hospitals are required to report to the state. However, one of the biggest obstacles that CTC has right now is getting people to respond to their calls. Here is where you can help. Please share with your friends and families that if they get a call or text from “MA COVID team” with either an 833 or 857 area code, that they should answer their phone. The information provided on these calls can help flatten and reduce the curve in Massachusetts.
For more information about Massachusetts’ contact tracing initiative, see https://www.mass.gov/info-
Amherst Pediatrics continues to modify our operations in an effort to keep our families (both yours and ours) safe, while providing the best possible care to our communities. We will also continue to keep you up to date on the things we think you need to know as we navigate the uncharted waters of this pandemic. To that end, we will be sending these important updates to you via MyChart to keep you informed. We know you are inundated with emails and messages from all directions, but please check all emails that come your way from us so we can keep you up to date on important information. Please also check our website, as it is being updated frequently.
New Office Hours
Amherst Pediatrics will be open Monday-Friday 8:00 AM - 4:45 PM.
We are temporarily suspending our extended office hours (5:00 - 7:00 PM).
We are temporarily suspending our weekend office hours.
After hours, we will continue to be available as usual by phone for urgent matters and will schedule you for a virtual visit if indicated by the circumstances.
Well Care Visits
We continue to balance the importance of social isolation with the importance of maintaining health. Because your child’s well care visit is an important part of health maintenance, with their vaccines being a critical part of this, we continue to recommend and schedule well care visits that are associated with vaccinations.
On the advice of the CDC and other public health agencies, we are strongly advising that people who are ill remain at home when possible, rather than being seen in person by a health care provider. We are very fortunate to already be up and running with the ability to schedule Virtual Visits through our MyChart patient portal. By seeing you "virtually", we can continue to provide you with care and advice, while keeping you safe at home. Please see our Virtual Visits page for detailed information on how to prepare for your virtual visit.
The Importance of Social Distancing
Social distancing is a tool experts recommend to slow the spread of a disease passing from person to person. Simply put, it means that people stay far enough away from each other so that the coronavirus cannot spread from one person to another. Social distancing is the BEST WAY for each of us to do our part to contain the spread of the virus! It is vitally important for everyone to practice social distancing to the greatest extent possible.
Social Distancing Means...
- Staying home as much as possible
- Talking on the phone, texting, or video-chatting instead of meeting up in person
- Keeping 6 feet away from others
- Avoiding public transportation
- Limiting travel
- Working from home if you can
- Skipping social gatherings and crowded spaces
- Disinfecting surfaces frequently
- Not touching others, including handshakes
- Not sharing items you've touched
- Following guidelines for effective hand washing
Health Smart Behaviors...
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Keep at least 6 feet away from people
- Stay home when you are sick and keep 6 feet away from others
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Don’t share items such as food, drinks, utensils, vapes, or similar items
- If you your child is sick, call us and we can determine if they need to be scheduled for a Virtual Visit or be seen in our office
► Click here to view our COVID-19 UPDATE archive
** Note: information is changing rapidly. We wil update this page as we learn more **
As coronavirus information and recommendations seem to change hourly, it is difficult to keep up and know what we should be doing to keep our families and communities safe. Amherst Pediatrics strives to keep up as well, and will continue to provide you with the most accurate information we can. That said, there may be no single answer to some of the questions that you have about this outbreak.
Kids and Social Distancing
By now, we have all likely heard that the single most important thing we can do to stop the spread of this virus is social distancing – limiting contact with others as much as possible in order to prevent transmission of the virus. But how do we do this, exactly, and how far do we take it?
On March 15, Governor Baker issued an emergency order prohibiting gatherings of over 25 people in an effort to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. After reviewing the recommendations of many public health experts, Amherst Pediatrics advises our community for now to limit contact to your immediate family or household. The ability of our healthcare system to care for those in need (both those sickened by Coronavirus as well as those with other serious healthcare needs) depends on slowing the spread of this virus. This must be taken seriously, and it must happen now. The only way to do this is with very strict adherence to social distancing – it must become the new norm, at least at this critical moment in the outbreak.
Here are some common questions we would like to address that have come up frequently:
Is it safe to go outside?
Although staying in your home will certainly help prevent you and your family from getting the virus or spreading it to others, it isn't the most practical thing to do, it isn’t sustainable, and isn’t even necessary. You will need to go outside, get fresh air, and move your body around. It’s fine to go out for a walk, a run, or a bike ride, but it is important to avoid close proximity to others - the recommendation being a minimum of 6 feet apart. If you do go out and encounter others, be respectful, say hello, but keep your distance. If you have it, bring hand-sanitizer with you if you go out, and use it if you touch objects that may be frequently touched by others, such as playground equipment or door handles. And remember to wash hands as soon as you return home.
Can my kids go on play dates?
Again, it is critical to minimize close contact for now. Though children are spared the worst of this illness, they can have mild illness or have asymptomatic infection – this makes them potentially silent vectors of transmission. That said, maintaining social connection is extremely important, so be creative. Video calls, phone calls, texts, or even letter writing can be important ways for your child to stay connected to friends and family.
Can we visit friends and family?
It is imperative that we stick to our nuclear families for now. While the vast majority of those who become infected with this virus will have mild illness, some are at higher risk for much more serious illness. This is particularly true of older people (those over 65-70), and people with certain underlying heath conditions, such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, or immunodeficiency. We must act as if we are all carrying this virus, and do our part to prevent spread to those more vulnerable members of our community.
Can I go out to eat?
For now, all our local restaurants are closed for business, though many are open for take-out and/or delivery. This is an okay option, but remember the following:
- If taking out, keep your distance from others
- Use hand-sanitizer if you touch objects that may be frequently touched by others, such as door handles
- Wash your hands when you return home and after discarding boxes or bags that have been touched by others
How should I clean my home
At home, continue to follow your usual hand hygiene practices. Clean surfaces regularly with a detergent, disinfectant or disinfectant wipe; this includes counters, table-tops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets & toilet handles, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.
Can my child get tested for the Coronavirus?
At this point in time, the capacity to test is limited. While the situation regarding testing is very fluid and likely to change soon, we are not currently performing coronavirus testing at Amherst Pediatrics. If you feel you or your child needs to get tested, please call our office and we can discuss the current indications and procedures for testing.
What should I do if my child is ill
Please call us right away if you or your child has fever for more than 3 days, a worsening cough, or difficulty breathing, or if you have known exposure to someone with COVID-19 infection.
We cannot stress enough the importance of frequent hand-washing, and staying away from others as much as possible when you are sick yourself.
Your child is hearing about this virus from many sources, some of which may not be reliable. Even with reilable information, this is a confusing and alarming time for everone, and children in particular are likely to have concerns that need to be addressed. The following are good resources for talking to your children about the virus:
Here are some useful places to get additional information about COVID-19, and how you can keep your family and community as safe as possible:
- Hand washing tips from the AAP
Please remeber to follow these general recommendations for prevention of infection:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean things that are frequently touched (like doorknobs and countertops) with household cleaning spray or wipes.
- Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
- Wearing a mask is unlikely to keep you safe but is important for medical professionals and for people who are ill. Leave masks for those that need them.
** Please note temporary office hours for the week of March 16-20, 2020 **
For the week of March 16 - 20, 2020 Amherst Pediatrics will be open 8:00 AM - 4:45 PM.
There will be NO extended office hours (5:00 - 7:00 PM) during this week.
Due to the elevated level of illness in our communities, please remain at home if you or your child is ill. If you have concerns about how your child is feeling, please contact us by sending a message through this patient portal. The clinicians will be able to respond to you during our regular hours. Calling the office may present a further delay in response times.
The COVID-19 situation is ever unfolding. We are dedicated to the safety of our patients and staff. Please refer to our website for updates on this changing situation.
A VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT AMHERST PEDIATRICS AND YOUR HEALTH PLAN
Attention! There are big changes coming for our patients who have health insurance administered through MassHealth. If your child has MassHealth or a MassHealth product, please take a moment to review this very important information about the new Tufts Health Together with Boston Children's ACO. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Click on the logos below for more information about this change.