Information for Southtowns Radiation Patients
Along with other healthcare organizations, Southtowns Radiation is strictly enforcing screening precautions for both patients and visitors. These precautions are extremely important, as many of our patients have compromised immune systems and are particularly susceptible to illness.
Important things to know before your next visit:
- Patients who are experiencing symptoms of illness (fever, cough or difficulty breathing), please call your clinic/provider before your arrival.
- Patients who have traveled to areas as reported by the CDC and the World Health Organization (including Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy, New York City and the states of Washington, Oregon and California) in the last 30 days, please call your clinic/provider before arriving for your appointment.
- Patients will be asked about travel to areas affected by the outbreak, as well as travel of their household/close contacts within the last 30 days. Patients are also asked about any recent onset of illness (fever, cough or difficulty breathing).
- We are enforcing an enhanced visitor policy that limits visitors to ONE VISITOR PER PATIENT.
Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding the Basics
What is Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19)?
Coronaviruses are common viruses that usually cause a simple cold. Some strains of viruses can cause more severe diseases, as seen with the recent novel coronavirus disease called COVID-19. This new virus and disease were the cause of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, starting in December 2019 and now has spread to many parts of the world.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Shortness of breath
- Other flu-like symptoms
- Pneumonia in some cancer patients
Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
Currently, there are no antivirals or vaccines effective against this virus, although studies to develop these are ongoing.
Are cancer patients at higher risk for the virus?
We do not have specific information on whether COVID-19 infection will be more severe in cancer patients compared to healthy people; however, other viruses often cause more severe disease in people whose immune systems are low, such as cancer patients undergoing treatment. For this reason, it is important to take precautions to prevent infection. Infection occurs mostly through close, direct contact with someone who is carrying the virus.
- People are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms, BUT some people may carry the virus even if they are not showing symptoms or only mildly ill.
- It may be possible to catch the virus from a surface that an infected person touched (like door handles, tabletops, etc.).
- The chances of being infected depend on whether there are infected individuals in contact with the cancer patient.
Should cancer patients wear a mask or avoid public places?
Even for cancer patients, wearing a mask may not help prevent infection. Most surgical masks are not tight-fitting, and aerosols can get through. However, they may prevent you from touching your nose and mouth. Cancer patients should avoid overcrowded situations.
- If you have mild symptoms, call 716-817-5590 to find out what to do next. If you are coughing or have a fever and have access to a surgical mask (not an N95 mask), wear it when you go out to a hospital or clinic appointment, to avoid infecting others.
- If you have a cough or fever and access to a mask, put on a surgical mask on when going to the hospital or a clinic appointment to avoid spreading the infection to anyone else.
Overall, if you choose to use a mask to prevent any spread of infection, it is recommended to choose a surgical mask (DO NOT use an N95 mask), and use it combined with good hand hygiene.
Should I self-quarantine as I am immunocompromised?
Limit your movement in the community to activities/trips that are essential. If you must go out in public, our doctors recommend that you keep a social distance of at least six feet.
What can I do to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19 in my area?
There is now community spread in Erie County and surrounding counties in Western New York. Public health authorities have enacted several restrictions and closures for public places and businesses, such as restaurants. It is essential that you abide by these restrictions and stay informed of the latest information by checking local public health reports.
Other precautions to take:
- Stay home unless it is essential to go out for groceries and other supplies. If you must go out in public, practice social distancing, which means maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people.
- Wash hands frequently
- Ensure you have enough supplies and medication
- If possible, have at least two weeks of your medicines remaining at all times.
- Check to see if your insurance allows for a 90-day supply rather than a 30-day supply.
- If your insurance supplies 30 days at a time, do not wait until the day before to refill, but refill a week in advance each time.
- Having medicines mailed to your home
- Using a pharmacy drive-thru
- Having your caregiver pick up your medicines to avoid public places
How can I protect others, especially those who are at high risk to get a serious COVID-19 illness?
We are in this together, we need to protect each other. Follow the current measures taken by our federal, state and local authorities. The regulations change rapidly, so keep yourself and your family updated.
If you are not sick, stay home unless you need to work, perform essential errands (i.e. groceries, doctor’s appointments, pick up medications, etc.). Outdoor activities, such as walking or running, are currently allowed but must be solitary or with limited company.
- 100% of the workforce must stay home beginning Sunday, March 22 at 8PM, excluding essential services. (New York State on PAUSE)
Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Inform your medical team ahead of your visit, so they can take precautions to take care of you and protect other patients in the waiting rooms.
Cover coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a mask if you are sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a mask when you are around other people (such as sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a mask (because it makes breathing difficult or you do not have one), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a mask if they enter your room. In general, you should not be out of the house unless for a medically necessary doctor’s appointment.
- If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a mask). Masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers and healthcare staff.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
How is COVID-19 treated?
Self-care (most cases):
- If you have mild symptoms, stay at home until you’ve recovered.
- Rest and sleep
- Stay warm
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough
- Avoid the use of steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications. Call your medical provider for guidance if you already take these medications.
Moderate to severe cases:
- Seek medical attention and you may be hospitalized for help with oxygen supplementation
- Currently there are no specific antiviral medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of COVID-19 infections. However, several medications used to treat other illnesses may help limit the severity of cases of COVID-19. Some medications are under investigation in clinical trials.
- Hydroxychloroquine: hydroxychloroquine, which is an older medication which has been use for malaria in the past, is one of the medications being investigated: (Current study)
- Specialized care with a team of infectious disease doctors, critical care doctors and other specialists in coordination with your cancer care team.
Where can I get up-to-date information about COVID-19?
The CDC and WHO update information about the spread of COVID-19 daily, including changing conditions in the United States.
General Policies and Information
Is it safe for me to go to appointments?
The risk of acquiring COVID-19 in hospitals in the United States and Canada is still very low. Healthcare facilities are evaluating patients for the risk of COVID-19, and if the suspicion is high, those patients are being isolated.
What precautions is Southtowns Radiation taking against the virus?
We have been proactive in protecting our community – patients, employees, volunteers, visitors, staff and vendors – to stay one step ahead of the virus. In summary, they include:
- Screening all patients, visitors and staff about recent travel by them or household members
- Screening all patients, visitors and staff about any current signs of illness
- Reminding visitors, caregivers and employees not to come to Southtowns Radiation if they have recently traveled or are experiencing fever, cough, congestion, difficulty breathing or other cold or flu symptoms.
- Restricting work travel for our staff and advising against any travel outside Western and Central New York.
- Greatly reducing the number of people at our location by using virtual patient visits, rescheduling non-urgent appointments and allowing employees who are able to work remotely
- Educating our community across various platforms so they can arm themselves with facts, not fear
Should I still keep my appointment?
If your care team feels that an upcoming appointment, procedure or surgery can or should be rescheduled, they will be contacting you directly. At this time, we are only rescheduling non-urgent or routine appointments that can safely be postponed and this is at the discretion of your treating physician. Virtual visits are also being offered for certain appointments.
Can my appointment be moved to a virtual visit?
Depending on your diagnosis, types of treatment, current disease status and other medical conditions, you may be eligible for a virtual visit with your provider. Instead of coming in for a traditional face-to-face appointment, you will connect by video chat.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect my cancer care?
Our team of healthcare providers continues to work very hard to deliver excellent care to all our patients. You still have access to your care team — our nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacist —to ensure your treatments and medical care are not interrupted. In addition, we continue to deliver your treatment in the safest conditions and minimize your exposure to the COVID-19. In order to better take care of you, our team may contact you to confirm appointments or postpone them for a later time if medically appropriate. Depending on your diagnosis, current disease status, your treatment and your other medical conditions, you may be eligible for one of the following types of appointments:
- Standard face-to-face appointment: This appointment type is necessary for all new patients to our service, if those currently in active chemotherapy or immunotherapy treatment, patients in a clinical trial, and those who are not feeling well or have concerns of a recurrence. Other situations may apply, and we will involve you and your loved ones in the discussion. For face-to-face appointments, we request that you bring only one person with you.
- Virtual Visits: This type of appointment is available if you would like to stay home and talk to your healthcare provider to review laboratory studies, CT or PET scans, biopsy results, etc. A virtual visit appointment is suitable for patients whose therapy involves oral chemotherapy drugs or targeted agents (for example ibrutinib, venetoclax, lenalidomide, etc.) that are well-tolerated, and the dose of the medicine is stable. Laboratory testing will be ordered one week before your virtual visit and may be done at any convenient Quest laboratory, or at the the time of a CT or PET scan appointment. Virtual visits may be appropriate for some patients in clinical trials using oral medications and patients on long-term follow up who do not want to postpone their visit.
If you are in remission after completing chemo-immunotherapy or chemotherapy and are on long-term follow up, we could postpone your appointment to the summer. We hope that by then the COVID-19 virus will be eradicated.
These measures will help us deliver excellent care to our patients while continuing the social distancing that is necessary to control the spread of COVID-19.
Are there any travel restrictions for cancer patients?
There are now several advisories and restrictions on travel both in the U.S. and internationally as the virus becomes more widespread. You should avoid international travel. Because COVID-19 is now in our region of Western New York, you should limit your movement in the community to activities/trips that are essential at this time.
We currently recommend that cancer patients:
- Do not travel. It is best to postpone nonessential travel. We also highly suggest that cancer patients’ immediate household contacts should postpone non-essential travel.
- Avoid crowds. The level of risk varies by country and area, and it is changing quickly.
Travel restrictions and recommendations are likely to change over time. Check frequently for updated recommendations on travel from these sources:
My family member just returned from an area with high COVID-19 activity. What should I do?
It is best to avoid contact for 14 days with individuals who returned from an area where they could have been exposed to COVID-19. If the individuals remain healthy after 14 days, contact can be resumed.
If avoiding contact is not possible, it is recommended to:
- Practice frequent handwashing or hand sanitizer use.
- All household members should avoid touching their eyes, mouths, and noses.
- Cough and sneeze etiquette should be practiced
What to do if you Develop Symptoms
What should I do if I have flu-like/respiratory symptoms?
There are many different causes for fever, cough, shortness of breath, and flu-like symptoms.
If you have mild symptoms, call 716-817-5590 to find out what to do next. If you are coughing or have a fever and have access to a surgical mask (not an N95 mask), wear it when you go out to the hospital or a clinic appointment, to avoid infecting others.
If you have a cough or fever and access to a mask, put on a surgical mask on when going to the hospital or a clinic appointment to avoid spreading the infection to anyone else.
If you have only mild symptoms your physician may not want you to come to the clinic, so talk with your cancer care team FIRST before going out in public, coming to a hospital or clinic.
What should I do if a family member/co-worker is diagnosed with COVID-19?
A person diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 should avoid all contact with cancer patients. The cancer patients or their family members should let their clinical team know they have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. The cancer patients should be monitored for symptoms and contact their clinical team if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Currently, there is no approved vaccine or medication to treat or prevent infection, but clinical trials are in development.
What can I do if I was potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?
To get COVID-19 you need to have had close contact with a person ill with COVID-19. Close contact includes:
- Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19,
- Caring for a sick person with COVID-19,
- Being within 6 feet (or 2 meters) of a sick person with COVID-19 for about 15 minutes, or
- Being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed or sneezed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.).
Being indoors, such as a classroom or hospital waiting room, with a sick person with COVID-19 and remaining more than 6 feet away, does not put you at a higher risk of getting sick. Additionally, briefly walking by or being briefly in the same room as a sick person with COVID-19 does not put you at a higher risk of getting sick.
Stay home and avoid contact with others for 14 days from close contact with a person ill with COVID-19.
- Please keep at least 6 feet distance from others.
- Monitor your health and be aware of the most common signs of COVID-19: fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
- If you get a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, before seeking health care call ahead to the facility and tell them your situation. They will give you instructions on how to get care without exposing other people to your illness.
If you have more questions about staying home or practicing social distancing, please contact your local health department.
Take these steps to monitor your health while you stay home and practice social distancing:
- Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day (once in the morning, once at night) and watch for fever.
- Watch for cough or trouble breathing.
- If you get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing, contact your primary care provider or the Erie County Department of Health for advice on getting medical care.
- If you are mildly ill, isolate at home (stay away from others) during illness. Get rest and drink plenty of fluids.
- If you have a doctor’s appointment or are seeking care, call your doctor’s office and tell them you may have COVID-19 due to your recent contact and your symptoms. Put on a facemask and perform hand hygiene before you go in to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting sick.
Stay home and avoid contact with others for 14 days from last contact
- If there are others in your household, try to limit contact by staying in a specific room. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
Do not take public transportation such as buses, trains taxis, or ride-shares during the time you are monitoring your health.
Avoid all public spaces, public activities, and group gatherings during the time you are monitoring your health.
If necessary, the Erie County DOH can ensure that your basic needs (for example, food and medication) are being met.
- A family member or friend who did not have any COVID-19 exposures may bring items to your door, but must stay at least 6 feet away from you and may not enter the home.
Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters) and WASH or SANITIZE HANDS FREQUENTLY.
When do I need immediate medical attention?
If you develop the below symptoms that could be consistent with a severe case of COVID19, seek medical attention immediately. Concerning symptoms include:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
If you are receiving active chemotherapy or chemo-immunotherapy and develop respiratory symptoms or unexplained fevers please contact your care team immediately.
How do I know if I’m at risk for developing a serious infection from the COVID-19 virus?
In medicine there are no absolutes. However, based on reports from other countries with COVID-19 infections, some patients have a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19:
- Older adults (any one older than 65 years of age).
- People who have one or more serious underlying medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease such as asthma, COPD, emphysema
- Patients with HIV infection and low CD4 counts
I am pregnant (or, I know someone who is pregnant), does pregnancy make me high risk ? What is the risk of COVID-19 to the baby?
We do not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public, nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.
The data regarding harm of the virus to the fetus/baby during pregnancy is limited. However, the medical literature suggests that the COVID-19 is not passed to the baby during pregnancy nor does it cause known medical problems in the baby.
What about breastfeeding?
Much is unknown about how COVID-19 is spread. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza (flu) and other respiratory pathogens spread. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk. However, we do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk. For additional information about breastfeeding guidelines, check the information provided by the CDC.
We hope to get more information as we learn more regarding this topic and we encourage you to discuss your concerns about COVID-19 with your obstetrician.
How can I ease my stress and anxiety?
Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Finding healthy ways to cope with this stress will help make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Take these steps to reduce stress:
- Stay informed and prepare to manage a home confinement or COVID-19 exposure or infection. Share accurate information with your family and friends.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Take time to unwind. Do activities you enjoy (board games, reading a book, etc.).
- Connect with others using social media, texting, phone or video. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Call us if stress interferes with your daily activities for several days in a row. We can provide additional tools to help you in these difficult times.
Read more information on the Erie County Department of Health website or call us at 716-817-5590.