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 in early 2020 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.
On November 15, 2020 the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Epidemic Order limiting indoor gatherings, closing restaurants and bars for dine-in service, moving high schools and colleges/universities to 100% remote learning and more. The order went into effect November 18 and was extended with updates several times throughout December and into the new year. See the latest Epidemic Orders and helpful FAQs from MDHHS here. The current guidelines for Michigan as of February 8 are explained in this infographic:
Indoor dining in Michigan resumed February 1 with limited capacity and other guidelines, and contact sports can resume February 8. These infographics have helpful tips for both:
The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 vary, but over the course of the disease, most people with COVID-19 experience one or more of the following:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
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. Face masks or face coverings can help reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%. Learn more here.
Similar to influenza (the flu), people at a serious risk for developing COVID-19 are those who suffer from chronic disease and weakened immune systems. Older adults are also at a more serious risk.
To reduce 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 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, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
- Stay home when you’re feeling sick.
- Avoid close contact of any kind with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
The CDC recommendations include the use of face masks while in public settings when social distancing is difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores), especially in areas of high community-based transmission. Learn more about masks and 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.”
On December 12, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. On December 18, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the second COVID-19 vaccine, allowing for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. for individuals 18 years of age and older. The vaccine distribution plan is being managed by MDHHS, local health departments and health care systems. Available vaccines are being rolled out in phases statewide, starting with health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Learn more by contacting your local health department, or at one of these links:
- Statewide information: MDHHS Vaccine Distribution and FAQs
- CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Information and FAQs
- FDA COVID-19 Vaccine Information
Keep insurance coverage
With the ongoing spread of COVID-19, it’s essential that Michiganders have access to the health coverage they need. In April 2020, Priority Health announced a unique, affordable new option to help those who have lost their employer-based health benefits due to COVID-19.
Priority Health announced additional financial relief in May 2020 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. Due to COVID-19’s ongoing impact, Priority Health also announced plans in late November 2020 to issue premium credits to large, fully funded groups effective on or before July 1, 2020.
Free online screening
The CDC offers a free online symptom checker here.
Check with your insurance company about coverage for COVID-19 testing. Some plans require it to be ordered by a doctor or other health care provider, and deemed medically necessary. Governor Whitmer announced on March 6, 2020 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 testing and treatment. This FAQs page is regularly updated with the latest information for members.
Not a Priority Health member? There are many locations throughout Michigan offering COVID-19 testing options without a doctor’s order or an appointment, including drive up options. Find a testing site near you here.
Virtual care for treatment
Virtual care is recommended by health experts as the best 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 the flu. Check with your doctor’s office or health insurance provider to see what program they offer for virtual care.
In March 2020, 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.
In April 2020, Priority Health announced waiving all member cost sharing for the treatment of COVID-19 through June 30, 2020 then extended this coverage in late June by announcing $0 cost share for medically necessary COVID-19 testing, treatment and virtual visits — including behavioral health visits — through December 31, 2020. On December 1, Priority Health announced an additional extension of this coverage. Priority Health will continue to waive all copays, deductibles and coinsurance for medically necessary treatment of COVID-19 through March 31, 2021. This means that all members across fully funded** Commercial, Individual, Medicaid and Medicare plans can get the treatment they need for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket health insurance costs. Covered treatment may be inpatient or outpatient from an in-network provider. Priority Health also announced that it will offer $0 cost share coverage for the COVID-19 vaccine once it is made available to the public, and will continue to waive all cost sharing for Medicare Advantage members for in-person and telehealth primary care visits through March 31, 2021.
Medications and supplies
In addition to CDC-recommended home checklist, 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.
Take advantage of pharmacies offering free home delivery for prescriptions to keep you home and safe from additional risk for exposure to the virus. For example, Priority Health members can get free home delivery through retail and local pharmacy vendors including CVS, Walgreen’s ExpressTM and Meijer. Learn more here.
Health professionals also recommend you have a thermometer at home to check your temperature and acetaminophen (Tylenol) to control fever or help with pain and muscle aches. Other helpful items to have on hand include clean masks, tissues for covering your mouth when coughing, soap or sanitizer for frequent handwashing, and cleaning supplies for disinfecting.
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. And if you’re a Priority Health member, $0 cost share for behavioral health virtual visits are being offered to members depending on your plan. Log in to your member account to learn more.
The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are monitoring global travel and updating restrictions daily. See a list of destinations with travel notices here.
Wondering if you should cancel an upcoming trip or unsure if you should travel at all this year? These FAQs can help. You can also search the CDC map of travel alerts and recommendations by destination here.
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.
Here are things you should know in case scammers try contacting you for personal information or money to get the vaccine. Remember: vaccines are covered at no cost to you.
- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
- You can’t pay to get early access to a vaccine.
- Don’t share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee.
Where to go for more information
Michigan impact: COVID-19 timeline 2020-2021
- March 10: the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan were announced. Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency closing all K-12 schools.
- March 13: President Trump announced a national state of emergency for additional resources and funding.
- March 23: Governor Whitmer signed an Executive Order directing all non-critical businesses to temporarily close and all Michiganders to stay home or 6 feet away from others. The order was effective as of March 24 and was extended several times with some lifted restrictions for retailers and businesses.
- April 2: Governor Whitmer signed an Executive Order to close all K-12 schools through the end of the 2019-20 school year.
- April 24: an Executive Order opened additional outdoor activity such as motorized boating, golfing and gardening centers with face masks required in close public spaces. (CDC guidelines for masks, including how to make your own.)
- May 21: Governor Whitmer announced allowing additional activities including small gatherings of groups of 10 or less effective immediately with social distancing and continuing to wear masks in close spaces. This included nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures.
- June 1: Governor Whitmer lifted the stay-at-home order with several restrictions still in place, with face masks and social distancing still required in close public spaces.
- June 5: the Governor announced that hair salons, barber shops and other personal services, such as nail salons, could reopen throughout the state. In northern Michigan, with fewer cases of COVID-19, indoor social gatherings, movie theaters, gyms and outdoor sporting venues were allowed to open with limited capacity/social distancing, and face masks still required in close public spaces.
- July 10: due to rising cases statewide, the Governor signed an Executive Order requiring masks in all indoor public spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces with a willful violation of the order as a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty (no jail time). Businesses were required to refuse entry to those not wearing masks. Some exceptions were included.
- July 29: due to a rise in cases from social gatherings, the Governor issued two new Executive Orders limiting statewide gatherings to 10 people and ordering bars across the state that earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from alcohol sales to shut down indoor bar services effective July 31. Casinos were allowed to open with limited capacity.
- September 3: Governor Whitmer signed an Executive Order reopening Michigan’s gyms and pools, and allowing for organized sports practices and competitions to resume in regions where they remained restricted, subject to strict protections.
- October 2: The Michigan Supreme Court ruled to strike down Governor Whitmer’s emergency Executive Orders.
- October 5: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an Emergency Order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and placing limitations on bars and other venues.
- October 9: MDHHS issues updated COVID-19 regulations that mirror Governor Whitmer’s emergency Executive Orders the Michigan Supreme Court struck down.
- October 12: The Michigan Supreme Court again ruled to strike down emergency executive orders Governor Whitmer issued under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. But new emergency orders issued through the state health department — which replicate mask requirements, restrictions on gathering sizes and restaurant capacity, among other features — are not affected by the ruling. The MDHHS orders require masks at any public gathering with two or more people — including sporting events and schools — for much of the state and maintains restrictions on the number of people who may enter stores or restaurants.
- November 15: The MDHHS issued a new Epidemic Order limiting indoor gatherings, closing restaurants and bars for dine-in service, moving high schools and colleges/universities to 100% remote learning and more. The order, effective November 18 at 12:01 a.m., is set to last for three weeks through December 8.
- December 7: The MDHHS extended the order through December 20.
- December 18: The MDHHS extended the order again through January 15.
- January 13: The MDHHS extended the order with some additional openings (indoor fitness classes and non-contact sports) through January 31.
- January 22: The MDHHS extended the order with some additional openings (indoor dining to resume with restrictions February 1).
- February 4: The MDHHS extended the order with contact sports allowed to resume as of February 4.
*Plans can vary. Please contact Priority Health customer service if you have questions about your coverage.
**Priority Health will also work with self-insured groups who determine their own benefit coverage for their employees and dependents to explore coverage options.