Concerns Regarding Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19)

Updated 01/27/2021 9:38 AM

At Partners in Health, our highest priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff. We are closely monitoring the situation and following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), public health authorities (Austin Public Health), and federal, state, and local orders. Our office has implemented multiple precautionary measures following their recommendations for public safety to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Update on the COVID-19 Vaccine

Two COVID-19 vaccines are being administered throughout the state of Texas by two different manufacturers, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. Both vaccines are similar in their active ingredient, messenger RNA, to allow the body to develop antibodies against the COVID-19 spike protein.

Key Assumptions for COVID-19 Vaccine:

  • Limited doses may be available, but supply will increase substantially in 2021
  • Initial supply will either be approved as a licensed vaccine or authorized for use under an Emergency Use Authorization issued by the FDA
  • Two doses, separated by 21 or 28 days, will be needed for immunity for most COVID-19 vaccines
  • Risk of side effects are low and are similar to those of the influenza vaccine, such as local redness, swelling, soreness, and mild flu-like symptoms

The COVID-19 vaccine timeline will follow 4 phases based on the activities allowed by availability of supplies:

  • Phase 1 (December 2020)
    • Limited doses
    • Priority groups based on CDC guidance when sufficient vaccine is made available
    • Vaccines are currently being administered to all individuals who qualify for Phase 1A and Phase 1B

  • Phase 2 (January-July 2021)
    • Number of doses available increases (~660M nationwide)
    • Our practice will likely fall in this phase
  • Phases 3 and Phase 4 (July 2021 onward)
    • Likely excess supply
    • Outreach to hard-to-reach populations
    • Plan for potential seasonal vaccine

At this time, our practice has not received any further updates from the Texas Department of State Health Services on when we can expect to have the vaccine. As soon as we receive the vaccine, our patients will be notified immediately. Until then, we encourage our patients to visit the following links to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sites for Testing (Please be aware that some testing sites will require an appointment, including our office. Patients must be established in order to test in our office. The types of tests available will vary with each location. Should any of our patients get tested outside of our office, please notify us)

Serology (Antibody) Testing for COVID-19

Serology testing cannot be used to make a diagnosis of active COVID-19 since antibody production is not present at detectable levels until several days after symptom onset. Only molecular testing should be used to make the diagnosis of active COVID-19.

The antibody test is currently not recommended by the CDC, the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association or Travis Medical Association at this time if a person has not had the nasopharyngeal test done. The CDC is also not recommending the antibody test to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace. The reason behind this is that the prevalence in Austin is less than 1% and in low prevalence areas the positive predictive value (the likelihood that a positive test is truly positive) is 48%. What this means is that a positive test will be wrong almost 50% of the time. Therefore, if an individual has the antibody test and it is positive, this person might have a false sense of security that they are immune when they might not be. That being said, if the test result is negative, the negative predictive value (the likelihood that the test is a true negative) in a low prevalence area such as Austin is about 100%. So testing would not change our recommendations of social isolation, use of face coverings in the public, and frequent hand washing.

What we are Doing to Protect our Clinical Environment from COVID-19 Exposure

As the number of documented cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, we are committed to doing everything we can to continue providing quality care to our patients while taking every precaution to limit the exposure of our patients and staff to COVID-19. In doing so, we are implementing the following measures in our office for the time being:

  • Our appointments are staggered to allow for time to thoroughly disinfect and sanitize each exam room. We encourage our patients to schedule and stay up to date with their annual wellness exams, as it remains a vital part of reducing your risk of getting sick and living a longer, healthier life.
  • All consultations and illnesses will first be evaluated via a virtual visit (also known as telemedicine), which is available for our established patients. Please call (512) 453-3542 or email to schedule a virtual visit appointment. Virtual visits include phone call, text, FaceTime, Zoom, or other means of video chat. Our patients can also reach Dr. Rhodes directly outside of our office hours. A virtual visit will allow us to determine the best location for you to be evaluated. In some cases, a phone call may allow you to avoid an in-person evaluation, which helps minimize exposure to the public.
  • All patients, visitors, and staff members are screened daily for symptoms related to COVID-19 (including temperature) prior to entering our facility.
  • We are restricting visitor access into our office. For your safety and ours, we ask that all caregivers, family members, and friends of our patients to wait in their cars during patient appointments.
  • For patients who have been evaluated by Dr. Rhodes and need to come into the office, please wear a face covering. Our facility requires all individuals over 10 to wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandanna, or handkerchief when leaving their residences.
    • CDC on the use of cloth face coverings
    • Please refer to this blog post for the most recent guidelines regarding face masks, including suggestions for DIY masks at little to no cost.
    • Please see this flyer for another easy DIY cloth mask
  • If you are experiencing a medical emergency, such as severe shortness of breath, chest pain, or altered mental status, please call 911.
  • We are currently accepting new patients, but all new patients must first join as concierge members in order to be established.
  • All events are postponed until further notice. Please check our website for activities held through our online meeting platform, Zoom.

What You can do to Protect Yourself and Others

COVID-19 has reached our community. Our goal as a practice is to make sure our patients follow the practice of social distancing, and to stay at home as much as possible. Please refer to our blog post for more information on social distancing. This pandemic can be overwhelming, but every person can help slow down the spread of COVID-19. By doing your part, you can make a big difference to your health and the health of others around you. Everyone has a role to play to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to help prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed, rendering it unable to care for critical patients. As we know, most people who become infected with COVID-19 experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Maintain at least 6 feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth, which may contain viruses. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before and after eating, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-base hand rub. Cleaning your hands kills viruses that may be on them.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Your hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This includes covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of used tissues immediately to prevent spread of the virus via droplets. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as the cold, flu, and COVID-19.
  • Regularly clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant to kill the virus. This includes your faucets, counters, doorknobs, desks, computer keyboards, soap dispensers, toilet seats, and light switches. This also includes your cell phone and the steering wheel of your car. If you think a surface may be contaminated, clean it. Surfaces can harbor potential pathogens and may act as a source of infectious agents.
  • Travis County Medical Society recommends cocooning for people who are over 70 years of age and those who are medically vulnerable (e.g., asthma, diabetes, hypertension, immunosuppressed, heart disease) to COVID-19, by minimizing all interaction. This safety measure was established to protect people who could become very ill if they are infected with COVID-19. We recommend all patients who fall under this vulnerable population to practice cocooning.
  • Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. National and local authorities will have the most up to date information regarding COVID-19 in our area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves. Please see the links above.

Ongoing Updates

Partners in Health is committed to protecting the safety and health of our patients and our staff, and their families. The measures we are taking in our office will keep our environment safe in order to continue caring for our patients. For more information, please visit our blog. We will continuously monitor the situation and keep this page updated for you. Thank you for your continued cooperation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Dr. Rhodes is just an amazing doctor. I have moved around the past few years unfortunately not being able to see her as my regular physician. However, once I moved a little bit closer to her I made sure to make her my physician again. She and her new staff have been amazing and she is very responsive and takes to time to listen to your issues or questions you never feel rushed.”

– Fabian M.