Town Crier Articles

COPING WITH COVID-19: Keeping Focused During Uncertain Times
Posted on June 1, 2020 7:00 AM by Kathy Mullins
Categories: Life in New Town
New Town residents are fortunate to share this community with a phenomenal range of medical, healthcare and personal wellness providers. Some practices, closed during the shutdowns, are slowly reopening in Phase One. Even those that remained open experienced challenges as they endeavored to deliver services safely. These practices and providers have some things in common, such as maintaining clean, sanitized facilities. But many seized the moment and utilized available technology, launched creative programs or initiated helpful communication in effective ways. 
There are many stories – here are a few:
Proactive Planning Enables Uninterrupted Care | Comber Physical Therapy and Fusion Chiropractic
Comber Physical Therapy and Fusion Chiropractic, an integrated rehabilitation facility, anticipated the impact of the pandemic early on and began preparing for necessary precautions and interventions.  Since Comber provides essential services, the facility expected to remain open during COVID-19 closures, but a review of its patient population had shown vulnerable groups that would need specific accommodations in order to receive uninterrupted treatment.
Three new options were developed for existing patients deemed in need of extreme protection from potential viral threats: 
  • Isolated Treatment Rooms. High-risk patients check in/check out and schedule by cellphone, reach a secluded treatment room via private entrance, and have contact with just one therapist.
  • Virtual Visits.  Therapists engage with existing patients who remain at home, through a secure, HIPAA compliant video platform that incorporates live-streaming, exercise assignments, and compliance tracking.  
  • In-home Outpatient Physical Therapy.  A therapist provides in-home, outpatient physical therapy for patients at high-risk for COVID-19 infection who have balance and gait issues, when prescribed by a referring physician. 
Qualifying criteria are in place for all three options and therapists trained to implement these programs.
In addition, Comber adopted even more aggressive protocols for proper hand-washing as well as sanitizing and disinfecting equipment, treatment tables, waiting areas, bathrooms, doorknobs and made sure they were followed.
Knowing how important it is to continue physical therapy treatment from initial evaluation to discharge without interruption, therapists made sure that all patients had access to home exercise programs (HEP).
Some patients have other health issues that might affect their therapy routine.  Comber therapists know that interrupting therapy schedules or stopping therapy mid-way can result in slower recovery or possibly starting therapy over to achieve goals.  Virtual Visits would also be beneficial for these patients.
Existing patients experiencing difficulties can now request Telehealth Virtual Visits. Appointments are set up as a scheduled video call between the patient and physical therapist, using an encrypted, HIPAA-compliant platform that incorporates live streaming, exercise assignments, and compliance tracking. Patients must have either a smartphone/tablet or access to a computer with reliable internet at home to participate. 
Alarmed by Underutilized Testing Services | Velocity Urgent Care 
Velocity Urgent Care in Williamsburg/ New Town was open and prepared to serve the community when COVID-19 first appeared.  “Given that 80% of what we regularly treat is respiratory in nature, we knew that urgent care was well positioned to test for, diagnose and refer COVID-19 patients,” CEO Alan Ayers asserted, “and so, expecting a huge demand, began offering COVID-19 viral testing at all Velocity locations.” 
The response, however, was distressing. “A decline in visits hit Velocity-New Town during the third week in March with the stay-at-home orders and closing of W&M, CW and Busch Gardens,” Ayres said. “According to Urgent Care Association (UCA) data, volumes are down over 60% nationwide and a similar downward decline was seen with hospital ERs.”
All of this seems to indicate that many patients are foregoing care or waiting until relatively minor conditions evolve into something more serious before seeking care, Ayers suggested. “They may be abiding by stay-at-home orders, or wrongly perceiving they might catch something by going to an urgent care.”  He stressed that all Velocity locations utilize stringent sanitation and infection control procedures and follow CDC Infection Control guidelines.  
As a result, Velocity Urgent Care New Town temporarily reduced its hours to align with the reduced demand. In May, Velocity began administering the COVID-19 antibody test, a blood draw which detects an individual’s previous infection with the coronavirus. The antibody test cannot be given until 14 days after COVID-19 symptoms cease.  
Cost should not be a factor. Ayers said the federal government has instructed private insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and the Veterans Administration to fully cover both tests without any out-of-pocket cost to the patient. 
The company continues to look for ways to help curb this public health emergency. Velocity Urgent Care has developed programs to help local businesses with 20 or more employees reopen more quickly and safely. For example, a company could have Velocity manage employee testing, either on-site or at the urgent care facility. To maintain a safe work environment, many industries require ongoing employee testing. 
Energizing a Dispersed Community | Iron-Bound Gym
“Although our physical location is closed, the Iron-Bound Gym (IBG) staff is working hard to stay connected with members,” says owner, Scott Grafton. “A significant aspect of joining a gym is becoming part of a community that not only works out together, but keeps in contact with one another. We’re engaging with members in as many ways as possible -- that’s part of what they miss.”
During the closure the staff has been producing virtual classes and workout videos for home use. “With the gym closed it’s harder than usual. We’re using unfamiliar settings. It’s awkward to teach a class in front of a camera and really difficult without participants. People generate the vibe that creates the energy needed for exercise videos. Using music would help, but add copyright fees, so usually we tape routines without it. Members can turn on their own sound tracks at home.”
IBG offers members more than 36 virtual classes. “I would say about 25-30% of our members are taking classes online --- or at least watching them,” Grafton quips. Some IBG trainers suggest appropriate workouts for members, then utilize Facebook or Zoom to go through the routine with them on screen, correcting moves and offering tips so it almost feel like a live experience. 
“If members want to share their own home exercises or comic video clips we can post those too. It shows that we’re in this together,” he said.
With warmer weather IBG began offering cycling classes outdoors (reservations needed - max 9 per session). There’s lots of chatter during workout sessions, even during virtual workouts, though social media has become the courier of jokes and smart retorts. “All of this helps us feel connected and focused on our goals, and that’s important,” says Grafton, who has been overwhelmed by the support from IBG members during the shutdown.
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