Dr. William Kim has been a physician in the South Bay for 35 years and serves as Chief Medical Advisor for Beach Cities Health District. Here, he provides tips for businesses and individuals dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With COVID-19 all over the news and social media and cases surging, many residents are anxious to get tested for COVID-19. Not everyone needs to be tested, but we do need to stay informed about the virus and its symptoms. Most important, all of us should still follow the basic steps individuals and businesses can take to protect themselves – and our community – from this virus. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. The common sense rules still apply. The best things individuals and community members can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 are:
• Stay home as much as you can
• Leave home only when truly necessary, for essential activities like work, medical appointments and grocery shopping
• Wear a cloth face covering when you’re out in public
• Physical distancing - stay at least six feet apart from people you don’t live with
• Wash your hands thoroughly and often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
2. It’s important to reserve testing for those who have a medical or health reason for it. While Los Angeles County currently has enough supplies to meet the testing demand, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise here and throughout the country. Let’s work together to reserve testing for those with a medical or public health need. Also, appointments may be limited at testing sites due to increased demand. The County is adding capacity at existing sites, including the test site at the BCHD Campus in Redondo Beach. If you think you need a COVID-19 test, first check with your healthcare provider. For a list of test locations in Los Angeles County, including state-operated and other community testing sites, click here.
3. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should self- isolate in order to prevent the spread of the virus to others and consult with your physician about your symptoms and getting tested. For elderly patients or those with an underlying health condition, seek medical care. If you don’t have a physician, call 211 to get connected to one. If you are having trouble breathing or have other severe symptoms, dial 911, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department immediately.
4. A COVID-19 test does not protect you from the virus, and a negative result should not be a reason to engage in risky social behavior. A COVID-19 test doesn’t guarantee that you do not have the virus; a false-negative test is possible. Also, even when accurate, a test result only reflects whether you have the virus at the moment you took the test. You could become positive at any time and exposure to COVID-19 could happen immediately following your test.
5. While rising case numbers are cause for concern, we can still turn this around by following the common sense steps above (see #1). Los Angeles County came together to flatten the curve earlier in this pandemic and we can do it again. It’s up to all of us to behave in ways that enable our community to move forward, instead of taking a step back.
6. Regardless of test results, you still need to follow quarantine and isolation orders from the Department of Public Health or your doctor. If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you need to self-quarantine for 14 days, even if you test negative during that time.
7. A recent Los Angeles County Health Officer Order requires healthcare providers to give patients access to COVID testing if they are symptomatic, are part of a public health investigation or have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 infected person. The Order also encourages providers to bill private insurance plans for these services whenever possible. Patients are not to be charged by their plan or provider for COVID-19 tests. Obtaining testing through a patient’s regular provider network helps to assure tailored clinical advice and facilitates good follow-up in the case of positive results.
8. Need a break from your house or your kitchen? It is OK to support a local business by ordering takeout. But remember to wear your face mask, maintain physical distancing of 6 ft. or more from others, and wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol or higher is recommended by the CDC) to keep yourself (and others) safe.
9. Employers should not require a negative COVID-19 test result before workers return to their jobs under the current guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
10. Employers can offer and pay for COVID-19 testing as a health and safety measure if an employer wishes to have its workforce get tested before returning to work. These employees should not seek a test at the County or State testing sites, which should be reserved for people who meet the medical or public health criteria for testing and who don’t have access to testing through their regular provider or health plan.
11. Businesses in El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Palos Verdes Peninsula looking for help with reopening guidelines should contact their respective Chamber of Commerce. Those Chambers have teamed with BCHD to create the “Safe in the South Bay” program, which provides guidance and a self-certification process for restaurants and other establishments to comply with Health Officer Orders. The program also seeks to give consumers confidence that participating businesses are committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure the health of their customers and employees.
More information regarding COVID-19 is available at https://www.bchd.org/coronavirus.