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‘Stop the Spread’: Emergency physicians release COVID-19 guide for the public

Photo: superoke/iStockphoto

Washington — How can you minimize your risk of contracting – and potentially spreading – COVID-19? Does wearing a facemask help? If you suspect you may have the potentially deadly respiratory illness, what steps should you take before visiting an emergency room?

To help answer these questions and more related to COVID-19, the American College of Emergency Physicians has published a new resource, Stop the Spread: A Patient Guide to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The illness is reportedly linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In the United States and its territories, as of March 18, 7,038 people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands had been diagnosed with the illness and 97 had died, the agency states.

ACEP states that you should call your doctor if you’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has traveled to an affected region, and if you develop symptoms within a 14-day period.

If your symptoms are mild, ACEP recommends you call your primary care physician to discuss your options. Visit the emergency room or call emergency services if you’re:

  • Experiencing a medical emergency.
  • Sick enough to go to the hospital, especially if you recently started experiencing shortness of breath.
  • A high-risk individual (i.e., an older patient or a person with an already weakened immune system) who is feeling ill.

“We are in the middle of flu season, which means emergency departments are already strained,” ACEP President William Jaquis said in a March 10 press release. “To make sure that everyone can get the care they need, it’s important to know when to go to the emergency department if you think you have COVID-19.”


Jaquis cautioned that local emergency rooms “may not yet have the COVID-19 test” available and that a primary care physician can best determine if testing is necessary.

As for wearing facemasks, the resource states: “There is no need for healthy individuals to wear a facemask. Facemasks should only be worn by individuals with respiratory infections, health care workers, and people taking care of somebody, or in close contact with somebody who has a respiratory infection.”

ACEP also has a website for physician resources, which includes clinical guidance and best practices, checklists, and the National Strategic Plan for Emergency Department Management of COVID-19.

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