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Protecting Against Coronavirus Disease 19

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Protecting Against Coronavirus Disease 19

Moffitt Cancer Center is committed to the health and safety of our patients, their families, visitors and our team members. We are taking all necessary Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) precautions consistent with the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Moffitt is the safest place for cancer patients to receive the best care.

March 27, 2020: Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties Issue Safer-at-Home Order. To better protect the community and slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have issued a stay-at-home order for seven days. What does this mean for our patients? The order encourages everyone to stay at home as much as possible and leave your home only when necessary. It is acceptable to come to Moffitt for your scheduled appointments and procedures, as well as take care of essential business at the pharmacy, bank, grocery store, gas station, etc. Read more about the Hillsborough order and Pinellas order.

Visitor Policy. We are taking extra measures to protect our patients, staff and the community by updating our visitor policy. Until COVID-19 no longer poses a threat, we will no longer allow visitors in the inpatient hospital effective March 23. This change is consistent with other National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers and federal guidelines.

We understand how critical family members and visitors are, and we will allow the following limited exceptions. Visitors 18 and older will be screened and will not be allowed on campus if they have respiratory symptoms. Children under 18 will not be allowed except under extraordinary circumstances.

  • Patients who have an appointment at a Moffitt clinic, laboratory, or radiology, as well as those visiting Urgent Care, may have one person with them.
  • Visitors may wait with infusion and lab patients in the lobbies but will not be allowed in the bays.
  • BMT is the exception and may have one caregiver (not visitor) per the policy.
  • Patients may have one visitor for comfort during end-of-life care.
  • Patients undergoing surgery or procedures may have one visitor for support and to learn instructions.

When possible, we encourage you to use your smartphones to stay in touch with your family and loved ones during your visit.

Screening. We have enhanced our protocols and are screening all patients and visitors at the entrances of Moffitt’s patient care buildings. We are asking about respiratory symptoms and whether you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. We are not taking temperature readings. We realize this may cause disruptions, but please understand the important measures we are taking to keep you, your family and our team members safe. We are limiting patient and visitor entry points to the main entrances of:

  • Red and Blue Valet at the Moffitt Cancer Center hospital on USF’s campus
  • Gold Valet at the Muriel Rothman Clinic Building on USF’s campus
  • Moffitt Research Center on USF’s campus
  • Schulze Family Foundation Outpatient Center at the McKinley campus
  • Moffitt Cancer Center at International Plaza

Please note, the Gold and Blue valet parking entrances on USF’s campus will close at 7 p.m. After 7 p.m., please enter through the Red Valet hospital entrance instead.

Reevaluating Appointments. Moffitt has carefully prioritized all surgeries, procedures and appointments to identify those not critical to patient care. We will delay or postpone nonurgent surgeries and procedures as recommended by CDC and American College of Surgeons. We are also offering virtual visits for patients who do not need to be seen in clinic, as well as rescheduling or postponing nonurgent outpatient visits.

Patients who are unable to travel to Moffitt for upcoming appointments should contact their health care team via the Patient Portal to determine if you are eligible for telemedicine, virtual visits and other options, and to determine next steps for care.

Social Distancing. Moffitt is taking additional precautions to ensure the health and safety of our patients by limiting exposure as much as possible. Through May 10, 2020, all Moffitt-sponsored conferences and community events held at the cancer center will be postponed or canceled. We have restricted all international and domestic business travel outside of Florida for our team members. Within Florida, only business-related travel that is essential for ongoing Moffitt operations is permitted.

Please see the frequently asked questions below. We will update this with any new developments. Patients with questions or concerns should contact your health care team via the Patient Portal or by calling 1-888-663-3488.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Some may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and experiences difficulty breathing.

Who can get COVID-19?

People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19. However, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions including blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and heart disease appear to be more vulnerable to this virus.

I have cancer. Am I at increased risk of contracting COVID-19?

All individuals with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. Here are four things cancer patients need to know:

  • Take preventive measures. COVID-19 is one of many coronaviruses out there that are common and cause mild illnesses that many would call the common cold. To help prevent disease, wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and sneezes, stay home when you’re not feeling well, and call your health care provider when you have concerns about your health.
  • Get the flu shot. It’s flu season, and patients with cancer need to take this into account. Certain therapies such as targeted drugs, steroids and immunosuppressive therapies can reduce immunity. People with cancer who develop the flu may need to delay chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
  • Only testing can determine if you have COVID-19. The main symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath and a runny nose. Because these symptoms are similar to other common illnesses, health care professionals might misdiagnose or patients might not report symptoms. The only way to tell if a patient has COVID-19 is through CDC testing.
  • Cancer drugs manufactured overseas are OK. It’s understandable that patients with cancer may have concerns about treatments that come through China. At this time, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers do not expect the spread of COVID-19 to impact their ability to produce drugs or affect supplies. The CDC says there is no evidence supporting the transmission of the disease through imported goods.

Should I cancel my treatment or follow-up appointments at Moffitt?

If you have a scheduled appointment at Moffitt and are experiencing respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, nasal congestion, runny nose), call your clinic to determine the urgency of your treatment and appointment. They will advise you on whether to come to Moffitt. We are screening all patients for respiratory illness and travel to level 3 countries.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you develop a high fever, deep dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath, please stay home and call your primary care provider and clinic at Moffitt for guidance. If you feel ill enough to go to the emergency room, call ahead and let them know you have respiratory symptoms so they can provide guidelines and protect you when you arrive. A doctor’s recommendation is required for the COVID-19 test.

What if a family member develops symptoms?

If someone in your household is sick, keep your distance. Wear gloves while caring for your sick family member and have them sleep in a different room if possible. Wipe down surfaces with bleach wipes and wash your hands often. Call your Moffitt clinic to inform them of the situation. To protect our patients, do not bring a sick family member to your appointment at Moffitt.

What if I want to postpone my appointment?

Contact your health care team via the Patient Portal to determine if you are eligible for telemedicine, virtual visits and other options.

How does the virus spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 3 feet from a person who is sick.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Is there treatment?

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with the virus can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms. Roughly 4 out of 5 of those infected experience only mild symptoms.

How can I protect myself?

  • Avoid contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects
  • Stay home when sick

How is Moffitt protecting patients, families and visitors?

  • Moffitt is monitoring updates from the CDC and Florida Department of Health.
  • We are no longer allowing visitors on campus to further protect our patients and staff. Please note our limited exceptions above.
  • We have implemented a patient and visitor questionnaire screening process at our entrances to identify anyone with signs and symptoms of respiratory illness and applicable travel or contact history with COVID-19.
  • Moffitt follows CDC guidelines for all cleaning and disinfection procedures. This includes frequent disinfection of high touch surfaces and restrooms with wipes that are effective against coronavirus. We are conducting deep cleanings of the hospital every evening.
  • The valet staff is disinfecting steering wheels and using hand sanitizer before and after parking each car. Keys are being disinfected at valet stands.
  • Moffitt has reserved a limited number of spaces at Gold Valet on USF’s campus for patients to self-park. Please request this with the valet upon arrival.
  • Wheelchairs are being disinfected between each use, and wipes are available in valet areas for this purpose.
  • Magnolias Salon is open with limited menu options consisting of basic services, head-shaves, wig consults, in-patient shampoos and retail therapy items. Visitation is restricted to one guest at a time, and high touch surface disinfection is performed after each service. Call Magnolias Salon at 813-745-7299 for questions and operational changes.
  • All Moffitt-sponsored conferences and community events held at the cancer center will be postponed or canceled through May 10, 2020.
  • We have restricted all international and domestic business travel outside of Florida for our team members. Within Florida, only business-related travel that is essential for ongoing Moffitt operations is permitted.
  • Moffitt is limiting traffic to patient care buildings to essential staff only to minimize the number of people in patient care areas. We are also encouraging team members to have meals in staff break areas instead of the cafeteria.
  • Moffitt is also limiting meetings and gatherings to no more than 10 people and encouraging virtual meetings when possible.

What preparations has Moffitt made to handle a cancer patient with COVID-19?

Cancer patients have unique needs, and we are confident Moffitt is the safest place for patients to come if complications arise from their disease. Moffitt is working closely with state and federal agencies and taking all COVID-19 precautions from the CDC. Our clinical staff is reviewing strict protocols to manage patients with COVID-19 from the time they enter the cancer center to isolation and testing.

Should I be worried about upcoming travel?

For older adults and patients with underlying health conditions — such as those on chemotherapy or who are immunosuppressed — the CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to destinations with level 3 travel notices because of the risk of getting COVID-19.

  • Cruises: The CDC recommends travelers defer all cruise ship travel at this time. Cruises put large numbers of people often from around the world in frequent and close contact with one another. This can promote the spread of respiratory viruses. Discuss cruise ship travel with your health care provider before traveling.
  • Long plane trips: Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, it’s best to avoid long flights. If you are on a plane, try to avoid contact with sick passengers, and wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol.

Please see the latest CDC travel health notices here and more frequently asked questions about travel.

Moffitt is canceling all events at the cancer center through May 10 to better protect our patients. Does this include patient and caregiver supports groups and patient and family orientation?

Yes. Patient support groups will not be held in person, but certain groups will host virtual meetings by phone instead. Click here for a list of support groups impacted by these changes. If you have questions, please check with the event organizer. To watch our patient and family orientation videos online, click here. Moffitt is proceeding with all meetings and gatherings that are essential to patient care and hospital operations.

Should cancer patients and survivors avoid public transportation and large events?

Patients in active treatment should avoid public transportation when possible. If you need to use public transportation, do what you can to protect yourself. Sit in the back or other areas with less exposure, and stay away from others who exhibit respiratory symptoms. When it comes to events, use caution in public places and limit close interactions. Stay at home when possible.

Is it Coronavirus, Flu, or Allergies?