We want to assure you that we can safely care for you. Because your health and safety is very important to us, we will continue the following safety practices:
As a service to the community, MyMichigan Health has published a COVID-19 informational hotline with a reminder of CDC guidelines and recommendations. Staff is also available to help answer community questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hotline can be reached toll-free at (800) 445-7356 or (989) 794-7600.
The following FAQs, with input by the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, help to answer common questions related to the virus.
What is COVID-19
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a newly identified coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. We are closely monitoring and following guidance from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are in close contact with state and local health authorities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and usually cause mild to moderate illness in people. This new virus is a public health concern because it is newly identified with much still unknown about it. It also is now widely community spread.
How is COVID-19 spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. Specifically, the spread can occur between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The spread also can occur from contact with infected surfaces or objects.
In addition, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads
What are the most common symptoms of COVID-19?
According the CDC, people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
- Runny nose
What are the prevention measures for COVID-19?
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. If you haven’t already done so, get a flu shot. As with the flu and other viruses, general hygiene precautions can help reduce the risk of getting ill. Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick. And, disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
Who is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
The exposure risk is higher for those who work in health care, first responders, and those who have prolonged close contact with someone who has COVID-19. In addition, elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of more severe infection.
What is the best way to protect myself from getting COVID-19?
The best way to prevent the spread of this virus is by practicing social distancing and proper hygiene, such as hand washing and not touching our faces. With these two measures we are all significantly less likely to get the illness because we will be less likely to come into contact with the virus.
What do we know about the Omicron variant of COVID-19?
The Omicron variant, also called variant B.1.1.529, was first detected in South Africa in early November 2021 and is officially considered a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization and the CDC. Since the detection of Omicron in South Africa, the variant has spread to many countries, including the United States and much of Europe. On Friday, Dec. 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Michigan.
What’s the difference between Omicron and other variants of COVID-19?
The biggest difference in Omicron is in its mutations. Omicron has 50 mutations in its genetic code, 30 of which affect the spike protein. This is more than other variants. In addition, early data has shown Omicron to be extremely contagious, even more so than the Delta variant.
What don’t we know yet about the Omicron variant?
Experts are still looking at data as this variant is relatively new compared to others. It’s still too early to say exactly how contagious Omicron is, if it’s as deadly as other virus variants, and what types of symptoms it causes and how they differ from other variants.
Are vaccines still effective against the Omicron variant?
While more research is needed, early data from Pfizer shows that two doses of the vaccine is still effective in preventing severe illness and death from the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and, even more importantly, that the booster offers additional protection. Research is still ongoing with Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
What can I do to protect myself against Omicron?
You should continue to do everything that’s been recommended thus far to fight COVID-19: social distancing, masking, hand hygiene, and most importantly – get vaccinated. If it’s been six months since your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or your first dose of Johnson & Johnson, get a booster shot. If you develop symptoms, such as a cough, sore throat or fever, get a COVID test and quarantine if necessary.
Can anyone get tested for COVID-19?
The CDC offers the following considerations for those who should get tested:
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19
- People who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) with someone with confirmed COVID-19
- People who have been asked or referred to get testing by their health care provider, local or state health department.
Not everyone needs to be tested. If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.
At MyMichigan Heath, all patients scheduled for a surgery or approved procedures, and those being admitted to any of our hospitals, are tested for COVID-19. Testing is required for all patients scheduled for any procedure or admission, as well as individuals who have previously recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
Where can I go for testing?
In an effort to reduce illness exposure and support the volume of community members seeking COVID-19 testing and direction, MyMichigan Health is recommending that patients contact their primary care provider for screening or contact our COVID-19 Hotline for guidance. Based on CDC and State criteria, providers will determine if testing is necessary.
MyMichigan Health offers COVID testing for symptomatic individuals at our Ambulatory Testing Centers located at our urgent care/walk in clinic locations. This is conducted during a brief car side appointment where a member of the MyMichigan Health care team conducts the assessment and tests recommended by the provider. A nasal swab is collected for the COVID-19 testing. Those patients are then sent to their homes to remain in quarantine until their test results are reported to them. These measures are just another example of helping to distance those with possible COVID-19 exposure from the rest of our community, staff and health care providers.
MyMichigan Health Ambulatory Testing Centers are located in:
- Alma: MyMichigan Urgent Care Gratiot, 321 E. Warwick Drive
- Alpena: Walk-In Care, 199 Long Rapids Road
- Clare: MyMichigan Urgent Care Clare, 700 W. 5th Street
- Gladwin: MyMichigan Urgent Care Gladwin, 1105 E. Cedar Avenue, M-61
- Midland: MyMichigan Urgent Care Midland, 3009 N. Saginaw Road
- West Branch: MyMichigan Urgent Care West Branch, 640 Court Street, M-30
How much does COVID testing cost?
The COVID-19 testing charge is priced at $150 when performed at MyMichigan Health. Most insurance will cover the COVID testing. However, there are insurance plans that may not cover this cost. Patients are responsible for all balances. If you receive a bill and cannot pay the balance please contact Customer Service, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at (989) 488-5815 or (844) 832-1956, to find out about different payment options/plans.
What should I do in case of an outbreak?
It is best to keep a 30-day supply of essential medicines and household items on hand at all times. And, if not already done, be sure to get a flu shot.
What if a member of my household comes down with symptoms of COVID-19?
If someone in your home begins to present symptoms of COVID-19, they are encouraged to contact their health care provider right away to assess their symptoms. If they do not have a health care provider, MyMichigan Health encourages you to contact your local urgent care or Emergency Department for next steps. If they are confirmed COVID-19, or a patient under investigation, they should remain in a separate room or portion of the house away from the rest of the household and follow any additional instructions given to them by their health care provider. In addition, household members should immediately begin to monitor their own health and contact their health care provider right away if they begin to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Above all, household members should continue to practice preventative measures including frequent hand washing, disinfecting surfaces often and social distancing. These measures are known to help stop the spread of illness.
How are you going to prevent myself or my loved one from getting COVID-19?
We are highly focused on our patients and their caregiving team. MyMichigan Health, in collaboration with national, state and local agencies, is reviewing and reinforcing processes for identifying and caring for patients with COVID-19 in the event that it is required.
Our Incident Command teams across the health system are meeting regularly to discuss possible scenarios and we are carefully monitoring the news as it evolves. We are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and working with state and local partners to make sure we are prepared for a possible threat to our community and our state.
Currently, general preparedness measures that have been completed, are in development and are ongoing at MyMichigan Health include:
- Reinforcing patient travel screening and triage questions based on CDC recommendations for Emergency Departments, Ambulatory Care, physician offices and clinics, and inpatient settings.
- Updating our electronic medical record (EMR) system with references/advisories for staff to identify patients who may be at risk for COVID-19 based on their travel history.
- Working with the local health departments re. testing for patients meeting criteria.
- Following CDC guidelines for handling tested specimens.
- Outlining/mapping isolation procedures and areas.
- Sharing information on COVID-19 patient management with appropriate clinical staff.
- Equipping clinical areas with protective clothing and equipment to be used in the event of a suspected COVID-19 case.
- Following comprehensive procedures for disinfecting patient rooms and removing/disposing of linens and cubicle curtains.
- Preparing to communicate with state departments, employees and media in case of highly-suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Providing via the MyMichigan Health website CDC information on COVID-19, visitor policy information, and signage.
What education are you providing your staff about the virus?
The COVID-19 Task Force is disseminating educational materials with ongoing updates to MyMichigan Health staff in a variety of venues, such as:
- Daily safety briefing updates
- MyMichigan Health intranet
- MyMichigan’s COVID-19 Toolkit, CDC materials, Health Department news
- EPIC best practice advisories and travel screening
- MyMichigan Health internet home page
- MyMichigan Health Facebook page
- Attend staff meetings as requested
Does MyMichigan Health have the right equipment to treat a patient with COVID-19?
Yes, MyMichigan Health is prepared in the event of receiving a COVID-19 patient. Contingency planning for a larger outbreak are currently underway.
Has MyMichigan Health dealt with outbreaks like this in the past?
We have been preparing for emerging diseases and viruses for many years, such as SARs, small pox, monkey pox, and Ebola, and have policies in place. With each disease and virus we have made necessary adjustments to our policies and procedures based on recommendations from the CDC.
What are your screening tools you are using to check if someone has COVID-19?
For your protection and for the protection of our community, we are asking all patients coming to any MyMichigan Health subsidiary if they have recently traveled outside the United States and/or had contact with someone with recent travel and exposure to COVID-19.
What if a person were to answer yes to the travel screening question?
If a patient answers yes, they would be asked to put on a mask and be taken to the facility specific location for care. The infection prevention manager would meet the care team to decide how to provide the safest care possible while protecting staff and other patients. The patient would be interviewed to learn more about their travel history and who they have been with for tracing and follow-up. In addition, we would begin the process of confirming the diagnosis in coordination with the state and CDC test centers. Confirmatory testing may take 24 hours for the diagnosis. If they present to a location other than the Emergency Department, they would be given a mask and will be directed to the designated Emergency Department.
Where does the patient go while they await their tests results?
Staffing, isolation room availability, patient condition, and many other factors are necessary for the team to make a unified decision in placing the patient.
What occurs if a patient suspected with COVID-19 presents in a physician office?
MyMichigan Health is screening all patients at every encounter. If a patient is suspected with COVID-19 and presents to a physician’s office, the office would complete the initial screening and communicate that to patient placement while having the patient put on a mask. The Infection Prevention team would be notified to clarify and make recommendations with a team for placement and direction on entering the building while minimizing exposure to others.
If I’ve developed symptoms of COVID-19, what should I do?
Please call your doctor’s office first, before visiting an Urgent Care or the Emergency Room if you’ve developed a fever greater than 100.4, a cough and shortness of breath. Your doctor’s office will be able to provide further instruction. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing).
What are you doing to protect visitors to MyMichigan Health locations?
As cases of the flu continue to be reported and there is a heightened alert to the growing coronavirus outbreak, MyMichigan Health is protecting patients and staff at its Medical Centers by keeping visitor restrictions in place for the remainder of the flu season. Only those visitors who are healthy, without symptoms of illnesses, will be allowed to visit patients at MyMichigan’s Medical Centers in Alpena, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Midland, Mt. Pleasant and West Branch. In addition, upon registration for Medical Center appointments, patients will continue to be screened for recent travel outside of the country.
Is it necessary to postpone or cancel travel arrangements?
The CDC provides recommendations on postponing or canceling travel. These are called travel notices and are based on assessment of the potential health risks involved with traveling to a certain area. A list of destinations with travel notices is available at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
- Warning Level 3: CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to destinations with level 3 travel notices because of the risk of getting COVID-19.
- Alert Level 2: Because COVID-19 can be more serious in older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, people in these groups should talk to a healthcare provider and consider postponing travel to destinations with level 2 travel notices.
- Watch Level 1: CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices because the risk of COVID-19 is thought to be low. If you travel, take the following routine precautions:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 - 95 percent alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
Are you accepting donations or homemade masks?
Our community has been asking how they can help support us in the upcoming weeks. We are accepting donations of unused Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including hand sewn masks. For a list of acceptable items and the process to follow to make donations, please visit www.mymichigan.org/covid/giving. We have also established a COVID-19 Relief Fund and will promoting this on social media as another way our community can help us during this time of crisis.
What does community spread mean?
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
How do you know if it’s allergies or COVID-19?
COVID-19 and allergies can share symptoms like shortness of breath and conjunctivitis. However, there are a couple of indications that are specific to each condition: Itchy eyes and nose imply allergies, while fevers and general aches and pains indicate viral infections. Allergies do not cause fevers. However, those who are unsure whether they are exhibiting signs of allergies or COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider to be screened.
Do you recommend the public wear masks?
Yes. In fact, research shows that masks can greatly reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19, especially when approximately 40% of those who have COVID-19 may be asymptomatic. We can only contain the virus and keep Michigan open if everyone stays careful and masks up when they leave home, whether they feel sick or not. The CDC recommends that you wear masks in public settings around people who don’t live in your household and when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others. Masks help stop the spread of COVID-19 to others. The CDC offers these reminders for mask wearing:
- Wear masks with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19
- Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
- Masks should be worn by people two years and older
- Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance
- Do NOT wear masks intended for health care workers, for example, N95 respirators
Are Masks Required?
Yes. We have implemented universal masking at all MyMichigan Health facilities. At MyMichigan, we believe in the power of prevention, and mask-wearing is one simple step we can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a face mask is effective in helping slow the spread of COVID-19, in addition to regularly (and thoroughly) washing hands and practicing physical distancing. The CDC reports that by covering your mouth and nose, you’re significantly lowering the chances of spreading infection through small droplets that come out of your mouth when you talk, sneeze and cough. To make sure that we are all doing our part to protect others, if you are admitted to the hospital, we ask that you be masked whenever a staff or treatment team member is present in the room with you.
Can the virus be spread on restaurant takeout orders?
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. The CDC continues to indicate that currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day use a tissue to cover your coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, it is not yet known whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
Have you restarted performing elective procedures?
Yes, we reopened our services in late spring 2020. We are confident that our patients are safe. As your health care provider, we maintain a safe environment both in our physician practices, as well as in our Medical Centers and surgical suites. We have incorporated some temporary changes that our patients will see, in addition to our rigorous cleaning practices, such as changes in entry ways and waiting rooms to ensure social distancing for the safety of our patients. We are here to provide safe, excellent care for our patients; it is our top priority.
Is it safe to come for care?
We are confident you are safe. It is our promise to you. Here is what we want you know: First and foremost, we are experts in preventing the spread of infection. We maintain a safe environment in our Medical Centers and treatment facilities, our physician practices and surgical suites. In addition to our rigorous cleaning practices and additional sanitizing protocols throughout our buildings, we have incorporated some temporary changes that you will see when you visit us. These changes include limiting the number of visitors in our buildings, symptom screening for those entering our facilities, and changes in entry ways and waiting rooms to ensure social distancing. And, in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order, our staff, patients and visitors are masked. All of these measures are carefully put into place to provide safe, excellent care for you, our patients; it is our top priority. You have our promise to keep you safe and free from harm.
Are there any treatments available for COVID-19?
As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, new treatment options have become available. One of the newest treatment options available is produced by Lilly, bamlanivimab, or BAM. In fact, MyMichigan Health is currently offering this treatment to COVID-19 positive patients who meet the criteria. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, ask your health care provider if you may be a candidate to receive this treatment.
What is BAM?
BAM is a monoclonal antibody that attaches to the coronavirus and prevents it from entering into cells in our body. BAM was recently approved for emergency use authorization by the FDA. The medication is intended for COVID-19 positive patients who are not hospitalized, but who are at high risk for developing severe symptoms or requiring hospitalization. Patients receive it by IV infusion.
Are there other medications that can be used to treat COVID-19?
Another medication that has been used is Remdesivir, which is an FDA-approved antiviral drug. MyMichigan Health has been using Remdesivir since the spring. Remdesivir works by blocking the virus from replicating in the body, and may help patients who are hospitalized with moderate or severe COVID-19 be able to go home quicker. However, the medication doesn’t appear to have an effect on patients who are on high-flow oxygen or a ventilator.
Are COVID-19 positive patients receiving oxygen as part of their treatment?
Supplemental oxygen use is standard if a patient is suffering from low oxygen levels, which can occur in some severe cases of COVID-19.
How do I know if I should be receiving any of these treatments if I am COVID-19 positive?
If you’ve received a positive COVID-19 test, the most important thing to do is to contact your health care provider for direction regarding any type of treatment. They will be able to work with you to determine what course of treatment, if any, is best suited to you.
I’ve had COVID-19, and have now recovered. Is there anything that I can do to help?
Yes. MyMichigan Health is asking individuals who previously tested positive for COVID-19 to consider donating their plasma, also known as convalescent plasma, which may help patients currently fighting COVID-19. As a result of your infection, your plasma now contains COVID-19 antibodies, which is one way your immune system fought the virus when you were sick. Your plasma is now known as convalescent plasma and this plasma my be beneficial to those infected with COVID-19. The donation could possibly save a life. Those interested in more information or wishing to become a donor may visit www.versiti.org/home/convalescent-plasma-donations.
Why is there a surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan?
The cause for the recent surge of cases in Michigan is not clear. However, many factors may contribute to the increase in positive tests, including the spread of variants, ease of restrictions, travel, COVID fatigue, reduced masking or hand washing, exposure to those aymptomatic with the virus, and reinstatement of youth sports.
What is a variant?
Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes they emerge and disappear, other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, a large family of viruses. Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. Scientists monitor changes in the virus, including changes to the spikes on the surface of the virus. These studies, including genetic analyses of the virus, are helping scientists understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected with it.
Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally and within the United States.
Should I take additional precautions to protect against the COVID-19 variants?
It’s incredibly important that we continue to practice mitigation strategies to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart from others, washing hands and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will limit the spread of the virus and its variants. It is also important to be vaccinated and encourage others to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity and keep all COVID viruses at bay.