March 16, 2020

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses were identified in 1950s and generally cause symptoms similar to most viral illness including the cold and flu (cough, fever, and/or body aches). This is very similar to most viral illnesses including flu and the common cold.

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus. Because this virus is new, testing has been limited; there are no vaccines and no medicines designed specifically to treat it.

Am I at risk for COVID-19?

The overall risk to the general public remains low. Patients are much more likely to have the flu or another common respiratory illness than COVID-19. More than 80% of people who get COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms and go on to have a full recovery.

Patients who may be at higher risk include older patients and those with chronic conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and body aches.

We are seeing a significant number of patients with these symptoms due to cold, flu and allergy in East Tennessee. If you are feeling ill, it is still much more likely to be a cold or the flu rather than COVID-19. As with the flu, most people who get COVID-19 will only experience mild viral symptoms and will experience a complete recovery.

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?
As your health care partner, your safety is our top priority. If you are in severe respiratory distress, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. You should not visit the emergency room for minor symptoms or to seek testing. You will have a long wait and expose yourself to other potential infections.

If you have a fever, cough, and other symptoms of respiratory infection, call your Summit Medical Group primary care physician. Our team can help direct you to the appropriate site of care based on your symptoms and medical history (such as recent international travel or exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19). If you are directed to an office, urgent care, or emergency room, please immediately notify the staff of your possible illness upon arrival.

Can COVID-19 be treated?

Since it is a virus, COVID-19 cannot be treated with antibiotics. Mild infections are treated in the same way as the common cold or flu with over-the-counter medications to relieve the symptoms of cough, congestion, and fever.

Can I come in and be tested for COVID-19?

We are following CDC guidelines for evaluating and identifying symptomatic patients. Again, if you have a fever and cough, call your primary care office to determine next steps. The best course of action may be to stay home. If you do not have symptoms, you do not need to be tested.

The COVID-19 test isn’t simple, like the ones for flu or strep. The tests that detect COVID-19 can only be run at specialty labs and not at a hospital or physician office. Each test can take 4-6 hours to perform. At this time, testing is limited and is being reserved only for the highest-risk and sickest patients. Laboratories are actively working to expand testing capabilities. Our doctors will make all testing decisions based on protocols developed in partnership with public health officials.


What should I do to avoid infection?

No vaccine is available at this time. It is believed the COVD-19 spreads via respiratory droplets such as from a cough or sneeze, so you should use the same prevention methods as you would to avoid a cold or the flu:

  •  Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Stay home from school, work and social engagements when you are sick.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

I have a regularly scheduled appointment with my doctor. Should I come?

Regular wellness visits and appointments for chronic care treatment are important for your health and should not be avoided. Summit Medical Group is taking every precaution to protect our patients and staff from exposure to Covid-19, including isolating patients with symptoms to prevent exposures.

If you have a scheduled appointment and are having fever, cough and other symptoms of respiratory infection, call the office where you have an appointment to ensure you get care in the appropriate location. We will help direct you to the appropriate site of care based on your symptoms.

Where can I get more information?

Don’t rely on secondhand information or social media for updates. Refer to reliable health information sites such as those listed below.
Tennessee Department of Health:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

American Academy of Pediatrics