Subject: Coronavirus Update 3/19/20

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Coronavirus update
Friday, March 19, 2020

Dear Patients,

As you know the Coronavirus story is fast moving - we are sending out updates weekly to assist you in working with us on testing or treatment. We will keep it brief as you have many other sources of information. 

Office visits:
At this time we are still open for illness-related visits, but have deferred all routine physical exams and follow ups. This is both to protect you from needless exposure in the hospital and our office, and to protect our staff. If you’re unsure about an upcoming visit, please give us a call.
Starting this week, we have shortened our regular office hours to 8 am to 3 pm on Monday through Thursday and 8 am to 12 noon on Friday. As always you can reach Dr. Biemer after hours on his cell phone 503-481-5871 (please continue to call the office during regular hours for routine issues). 
Virtual Visits: 
I’m sure you’ve been reading that many clinics are encouraging virtual visits. This is basically a phone call with visual communication, similar to Skype or Facetime. For it to be HIPAA compliant we need to use a vendor that meets certain criteria, and it requires a brief sign on by you and at our end. Almost all Medicare requirements for virtual visits have been waived so that this is recognized as a legitimate office visit for any reason - not just related to respiratory illnesses. We have started working with a company called DOXY.ME and hope you’ll find this very simple to use and helpful in the coming months. 

COVID-19 Testing:
There are multiple outlets for testing but few in Oregon are easily accessible to the general public at this time. We are seeing some improvements but testing is still limited to patients who are clinically ILL, with symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. All samples will be tested for influenza before COVID as the presentations are so similar. Here are the current options:

Oregon Health Authority – testing is available through the Oregon Health Authority for a very limited number of people. At this point this is primarily used for those who are hospitalized or for individuals who work with high risk populations such as health care workers.
Providence Hospitals – Providence began testing for COVID-19 today (3/19/20) but is still limited in capacity and has strict testing criteria. 

Commercial labs – Two labs, LabCorps and Quest, are now offering COVID-19 testing. We have requested testing kits from QUEST and don’t yet have their “preferred” swabs but have been told we can use the older viral testing swabs in a pinch.
Providence St. Vincent Hospital
Likely you’ve heard that we have had our first death from COVID 19 at St. Vincent. There are currently 6 patients with diagnosed COVID 19 in the hospital and are additional PUI’s (persons under investigation, tests pending).

What to do if you show symptoms:
Symptoms of COVID-19 most commonly include sore throat, fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and sometimes other flu symptoms.

• Self-isolate at home until 72 hours after fever and cough (if present) resolve per the advice of Oregon Health Authority
• Call us. Let us know about your symptoms so that we can help you manage them as well as assist with decisions about seeking further care
• Heed advice to mostly stay at home and use SOCIAL DISTANCING over the next few weeks until “all clear” signal. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, it is the real deal. 

• Come in to the office without first speaking with a staff member
• Seek testing at urgent care or emergency department unless your symptoms warrant further medical assistance

Please understand that this is a rapidly evolving situation and we will do our best to keep you in the loop with any updates. We understand and share many of your frustrations. Regardless of the availability of testing, the best thing we can do is maintain good hygiene and follow the guidelines set forth by the Oregon Health Authority.

And lastly, THANK YOU to all those who have reached out to us, and asked about our welfare. At the moment everyone in the office is well.

Stay well,
Jim Biemer, Julia Jones, and the team
James Biemer, 9135 SW Barnes Rd, Suite 863, Portland, OR 97225, United States
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