Practical COVID-19 FAQs from a Frontline Doc

 What a rollercoaster ride we’ve all been on! Pause. B-R-E-A-TH-E. Acknowledge all that you have been through. It’s a lot. Since March I’ve been working at PAMF’s Respiratory Clinic (COVID-19 screening center), and part of a COVID-19 Task Force calling and assessing patients with positive test results. I thought I’d share the top 5 COVID-19 FAQs from the frontline which you might find helpful:


Q: I’m meeting (family, friend, high-risk individual) this weekend and want to make sure I don’t get them sick. Should I get tested?

A: Here’s the bottom line: You can get a test, but its utility is limited, and a negative test may be falsely reassuring. The false-negative rates of nasal swabs can range from 5-30%. More importantly, a negative test today does not mean you’ll be negative tomorrow! The time from possible exposure to a positive test (and symptoms) can range from 3-14 days. Thus, your test can turn positive anytime in the 14-day window after exposure! The best way to ensure that you don’t accidentally expose someone is to be extra vigilant about low-risk behavior in the 14 days prior to your visit. Of course, this means masking, social-distancing and hand-washing. It also means avoiding indoor gatherings, outdoor dining, and shopping!


Q: I just found out that (family, friend, nanny, teacher, plumber, client, fill-in-the-blank) tested positive and I saw him/her (1-14) days ago. What is my risk? Should I get tested?

A: Risk from this exposure depends on masking, indoor vs outdoor, proximity & length of time together. The lowest risk would be masked, outdoors, and 6-feet apart for less than 10 minutes. In general, if you are asymptomatic, the answer to the first question still applies, and it’s best to self-quarantine for 14 days. Recall that you can be contagious with the virus 2 days prior to having any symptoms, so this is why self-quarantine is important. Should you develop symptoms, it’s best to contact your doctor and arrange for a test, or check here for local testing sites.


Q: Due to (family, work, personal sanity), I need to fly. What do you think?

A: Sometimes travel is necessary, even in a pandemic. Stay socially distanced (as much as possible) and masked (and preferably wear a face shield) for the duration of the trip. Bring disinfectant wipes for: armrests, window, tray, air vent knobs. Most airplanes have excellent HEPA filtration air systems, so feel free to turn on the air vents. Use hand-sanitizer frequently, especially after touching any public surface (such as bathrooms, escalators and elevator buttons) at the airport. Consider bringing your own food & drink.


Q: Does a bandana work as well as any other mask?

A: No! It’s basically useless, according to a recent Duke University study discussed here. Aside from an N-95 mask (reserved for hospital staff), the standard blue surgical mask ranks the best and those are now widely available online. Home-made masks are also discussed in the article. AVOID masks with a “vent” in them, as they are unsafe for anyone in near proximity.


Q: I want to stay healthy. How can I boost my immune system against COVID-19? 

A: Glad you asked! In case you missed last month’s newsletter announcement, my Optimizing Y our Immune System Against COVID-19 webinar talks all about evidence-based natural steps that you can start today. Your immune system is the best defense against the

SARS-CoV-2 virus, and your daily choices around food, exercise, sleep, relaxation and supplements are all in your immune-boosting tool kit!


May you all stay healthy, safe & resilient!


Written by Gina Serraiocco MD, Sutter PAMF Physician, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Integrative Medicine. She has a lifelong passion for helping patients discover their innate healing abilities. Dr. Serraiocco empowers patients to gain vibrant health via personalized nutrition paradigms and lifestyle-based programs through the Integrative Medicine Department at PAMF.

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