Commentary: Seven steps to staying safe

By Andres Abreu, MD and Julian Kuffler, MD MPH 


The Mount Desert Island Hospital is taking measures to protect the community, from implementing protective measures at Birch Bay Retirement Village, to shifting to remote work and tele-health appointments and creating a call center for questions and concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. There are simple, everyday precautions we can implement to keep each other healthy and safe. 

Seven steps to staying safe: 

1) Keep your hands clean. When you are outside your home, wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer after touching an object. Wash your hands immediately upon returning home. Ensure that you review proper hand washing technique. 

2) Do not touch your face. This hygiene practice is essential to maintaining wellness. Remain alert to the tendency to want to touch your face. Practice mindfulness and behavior modification. 

3) Cover your face. Consider wearing a bandana or hand-sewn cloth mask whenever you are outside. Most transmission occurs through auto-innoculation, in other words, touching a contaminated surface and then making contact with a mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth). You can reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure through hand-to-face contact by using a cloth mask to cover your face. For some, the presence of a face covering can help to serve as a reminder. If you begin to experience symptoms of the illness, a simple cloth barrier may help to reduce the likelihood of transmission. 

4) Support your doctors, nurses, physician assistants, respiratory therapists and hospitals. Personal protective equipment is in short supply. Surgical masks and N95 masks are best used to reduce hospital transmission where there is greater risk of aerosolization of the virus. Only use a surgical mask if instructed by your healthcare practitioner, of if you or someone in your household has a respiratory illness and physical distancing is not possible. MDI Hospital is accepting donations of critical supplies, including personal protective equipment. These donations will help to alleviate supply shortages. 

5) Maintain physical distance. Keep six feet of distance from others when you are outside of your home. Transmission is much more likely when you touch someone or when you are in sustained and close proximity to others for periods of greater than 15 minutes. 

6) Keep a tight social circle. This will help to significantly curtail the risk of transmission. Leverage other means of communication that allow you to remain socially intimate and reduce loneliness. Physical distance does not equal social distance. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and email are all means to keep you in touch with the people you wish you could be seeing in person. 

7) Stay home. This is the most effective way to keep you, your family and your community healthy. Staying home is especially important if you have flu or cold symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness and begin to experience shortness of breath, call your primary care office or the MDI Hospital Coronavirus Call Center at (207) 801-5900. Notifying the hospital will prepare them for your specific needs and allow for a coordinated arrival. If you are referred for testing by your primary care office, MDI Hospital has established a centralized access point for testing outside Cooper Gilmore Health Center. Do not go to the hospital, without first calling, for any of the following: request testing for COVID-19; obtain relief from symptoms such as fever, cough and muscle aches; seek reassurance. 

In the face of so much uncertainty, it is only natural to feel anxious and frightened. It is equally natural to want to seek out help from trusted professionals. Remember that the best way to obtain medical advice, education, reassurance, and support is by calling your primary care office, or by calling the Coronavirus Call Center at (207) 801-5900.   

Andres Abreu and Julian Kuffler are physicians at Mount Desert Island Hospital. 

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