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.
Michigan impact: 2020 timeline
- March 10: the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 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, freeing up 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 shopping at gardening centers or other nonessential retailers. However, face masks are required in close public spaces. Here are some CDC guidelines for masks, including how to make your own.
- 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. This also included nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures.
- June 1: Governor Whitmer lifted the stay-at-home order with several restrictions still in place. Restaurants re-opened to dine-in customers, day camps for children and pools opened starting June 8. Groups of up to 100 people can gather outside as long as they practice social distancing. Gyms and fitness centers can offer outdoor activities as long as participants, coaches and spectators stay 6 feet apart. Face masks and are still required in close public spaces.
- June 5: the Governor announced that hair salons, barber shops and other personal services, such as nail salons, can reopen throughout the state by June 15. In northern Michigan, where there have been far fewer cases of COVID-19, indoor social gatherings, movie theaters, gyms and outdoor sporting venues are allowed to open with limited capacity and social distancing, and face masks still required in close public spaces.
- July 10: due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan, the Governor signed an Executive Order requiring masks in all indoor public spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces. A willful violation of the order is a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty (but no jail time). Businesses must refuse entry to those not wearing masks. Exceptions include: children under 5, anyone eating or drinking while at a restaurant, and those who are medically unable to wear a mask. Learn more about additional exceptions here. The order goes into effect on July 13.
- 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. Face masks or face coverings can help reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%. 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 recommendations include the use of face masks while in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores), 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 and CEO of 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. Priority Health extended this coverage on June 29 by offering $0 cost share for COVID-19 testing, treatment and virtual visits — including behavioral health visits — for members through December 31, 2020. Learn more here.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic some people delayed treatment or care that is medically necessary.” said Joan Budden, President and CEO of Priority Health. “We want to encourage all of our members to stay healthy by removing any financial hurdles during this economically challenging time. Whether it’s through premium credits or $0 virtual visits, Priority Health is committed to making it easy and affordable for our members to get the care they need.”
Free online screening
Priority Health is offering a free online screening for COVID-19 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 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 testing and treatment, if needed.
There are also locations throughout Michigan offering testing without a doctor’s order or an appointment, including drive up options. Find a testing site near you 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.
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 through December 31, 2020. 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 trip? 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.
Where to go for more information
Michigan health experts advise the best source for the most updated medical information about COVID-19 is the CDC.
*Plans can vary. Please contact Priority Health customer service if you have questions about your coverage.