What is COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. This flu-like illness is very serious, with confirmed cases and deaths in the U.S. and Michigan rising.
How is it impacting Michigan?
- On March 10, the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan were announced and Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency closing all K-12 schools. On April 2, Governor Whitmer signed an Executive Order to close all K-12 schools through the end of the school year.
- President Trump announced a national state of emergency on March 13, freeing up additional resources and funding.
- On March 23, Governor Whitmer signed an Executive Order directing all non-critical businesses to temporarily close and all Michiganders to stay home or six feet away from others. The order was effective as of midnight March 24 and has been extended until June 12 with some lifted restrictions for retailers and businesses. Michiganders should continue to stay in their homes unless they’re a part of critical infrastructure workforce, engaged in an outdoor activity or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family, like going to the hospital or grocery store.
- As of 11 a.m. on April 24, the order now allows for some additional outdoor activity such as motorized boating, golfing and shopping at gardening centers or picking up other supplies previously deemed nonessential. However, face masks are required in any close public spaces. Here are some CDC guidelines for masks, including how to make your own.
- On May 21, Governor Whitmer announced allowing some additional activities including small gatherings of groups of 10 or less effective immediately as long as groups practice social distancing and continue to wear masks in close spaces. The May 21 announcement also included additional retail changes. Starting Friday, May 29, health care providers can perform nonessential medical, dental, and veterinary procedures, and starting Tuesday, May 26, retail businesses and auto dealerships across the state will be allowed to operate via appointment only. Retail businesses and auto showrooms are limited to 10 people inside at a time.
- Shortness of breath | Difficulty breathing
According to the CDC, these symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- 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.
Learn more here.
Similar to influenza, people at a serious risk for developing COVID-19 are those who suffer from chronic disease and weakened immune systems. Older demographics are also at a more serious risk.
To reduce the risk, health experts recommend practicing the following everyday actions, along with social distancing (CDC recommendations here) for community locations.
- Wash hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect any surfaces you frequently touch.
- Always cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a tissue, and then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
- Stay home when you’re feeling sick.
- Avoid close contact of any kind with sick individuals.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
The CDC recently updated recommendations to include the use of cloth face masks while in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. Learn more about face coverings from the CDC.
Health experts in Michigan are keeping a close eye on the risk for COVID-19 throughout the state. Dr. James Forshee, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at Priority Health says, “Priority Health will continue to monitor and work with the State’s Health Departments and Department of Health and Human Services to assure appropriate information is obtained and readily shared.”
Keep insurance coverage
During this difficult time, it’s essential that Michiganders have access to the health coverage they need.
On April 14, Priority Health announced a unique, affordable new option to help those who have lost their employer-based health benefits due to COVID-19.
“At this time, more than ever, it is crucial that every person in this country has health insurance,” said Joan Budden, President & CEO, Priority Health. “We have pushed ourselves to get creative with solutions to address this pandemic, and our new combination plan makes it possible that no one will have to go a day without health insurance.”
Priority Health announced on May 12 additional financial relief for members and employers in response to COVID-19. This includes premium credits and waiving cost sharing for the most heavily impacted populations. Learn more here.
Virtual care for treatment
Remember that virtual care is an option for minor symptoms. Virtual care allows you to see a doctor without having to leave home, and is an alternative to urgent care or the ER. Both urgent care and ER locations can become crowded during peak illness periods and are generally more expensive per visit, depending on your health plan. Virtual care is also a good way to help prevent the spread of infections like COVID-19 and influenza. Check with your doctor’s office or health insurance provider to see if they offer virtual care.
On March 20, Priority Health announced expanding $0 copay telehealth (virtual care) to all of its nearly one million members. Members across Commercial, Individual, Medicaid and Medicare plans* will have virtual access to medical professionals for non-emergency care at no additional cost to help mitigate further risk of COVID-19 and avoid overwhelming Michigan health care facilities. If you’re a Priority Health member, you can access virtual care in the Priority Health app or log in to your member account at PriorityHealth.com.
On April 9, Priority Health announced waiving all member cost sharing for the treatment of COVID-19 through June 30, 2020.
“We are committed to ensuring our members have access to the health care they need for COVID-19, when they need it without worrying about cost,” said Joan Budden, President and CEO of Priority Health. “These are unprecedented times, and we will do what is necessary to keep our members and communities safe.”
Free online screening
Priority Health is offering a free online screening for COVID-19 here.
Medications and supplies
In addition to CDC-recommended home supplies, health professionals recommend making sure you have all of the necessary medications on hand to help prepare for a potential home quarantine. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for a 90-day supply or try a mail-order service that offers 90-day supplies. Your insurance company may also allow early refills for any necessary medications, depending on your plan.
Priority Health members can get free at-home delivery for a limited time through a few retail and local pharmacy vendors including CVS, Walgreen’s ExpressTM and Meijer. Learn more here.
Testing for COVID-19 needs to be ordered by a doctor or other health care provider, and must be medically-necessary. Testing is currently being handled by the state and local health departments.
Individuals with mild to moderate illness do not need to be tested. They should stay home for seven days or 72 hours after symptom resolution, whichever is longer. Additionally, testing is not recommended in people who do not have symptoms. Testing does not alter the treatment of mild to moderate illness.
Governor Whitmer announced on Friday, March 6 that any medically-necessary testing for COVID-19 will be fully covered (any copays and deductibles waived) by the state and insurance companies like Priority Health. If you’re a Priority Health member, see a list of FAQs here about what your plan will cover for COVID-19.
Mental health support
Self-care and coping skills are critical to your mental health and wellbeing. Priority Health has partnered with a digital health specialist to offer free access to mental wellness resources specifically focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here.
The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are monitoring global travel and updating restrictions daily. See a list of destinations with travel notices available here.
Wondering if you should cancel an upcoming spring break trip or work travel? These FAQs can help.
Beware of scams
Multiple governmental agencies including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Michigan Attorney General have issued warnings to make sure consumers are aware of scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding COVID-19. Learn more and follow tips to avoid scams here.
Michigan health experts advise the best source for the most updated information about COVID-19 is the CDC.
*Plans can vary. Please contact Priority Health customer service if you have questions about your coverage.