Reduce the Risk of Spreading COVID-19 During the Holidays

November 30, 2020

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit our resource page.

The holidays are such a special time, often filled with the anticipation of gathering with friends and family. But with COVID-19 cases surging, we are forced to make some hard choices about how we celebrate our holiday traditions.

People across the country have become lax about the basic precautions of properly wearing a mask, washing hands, avoiding unnecessary trips, or maintaining physical distance. We’re also in the middle of flu season which only adds to the strain put on health care facilities and workers.

The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19, or the risk of contracting it, is to cancel plans for any holiday gathering. Don’t risk the health of a loved one for one holiday season when the likelihood of being able to celebrate safely next year has been improved with recent news about two potential vaccines.

There are some steps you can take as a host and a guest if a holiday gathering is not negotiable.

Take It Outside

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Most people look at how they’re going to get everyone around the table for that special holiday meal. This year the focus will be on spreading everyone out and keeping the gathering manageable.

AltaMed’s Medical Director of Infection Protection Sherrill Brown, M.D., recently told Good Housekeeping that eating outside and maintaining distance between guests can reduce a lot of the risk associated with a holiday dinner. Immediate family members should be the only ones allowed to sit next to each other. Seating should be assigned to help keep everyone as safe as possible.

If sitting outside isn’t feasible, it’s important to keep the air flowing inside. Point fans toward intake vents and open screened windows or doors to improve air flow. Again, maintaining distance is vital.

If You’re Hosting

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The more the merrier doesn’t work this year. The more people there are at a gathering, the greater the potential for transmission. Scientists and health experts believe the most recent surge in cases is the result of casual dinners, game nights, and even carpools. These activities seem safe because the groups are small. Those gathered don’t consider who they may have been exposed to or who at the gathering has been exposed.

The California Department of Public Health created guidelines for those who plan to invite people for holiday gatherings.

  • Limit attendance to no more than three households.
  • Gather outside.
  • Don’t gather for more than two hours.
  • Keep masks on when not eating or drinking.
  • Don’t sing or shout.
  • Everyone should maintain distance even when outside.

Don’t worry about breaking out the fine dining ware for the holiday. Serving needs to be sanitary, so one or two people should prepare plates for everyone. Don’t have a buffet line or pass bowls of food. Plates, cups, and utensils should be single use to reduce the risk of transmission. If space is tight, eat in shifts. Let the kids go first followed by the older folks. That way some of the group is still masked.

If You’re Visiting

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The holidays are often some of the busiest travel days with people packing on planes to visit far-flung relatives or coming home from colleges out of state. This year, if you must travel, drive. There is still the risk of encountering people in gas stations, at rest stops, and when picking up food. But the number of people you encounter is much less than those in the confined space of an airport, plane, bus, train, or station.

Reconsider plans to stay with family. While it seems like the natural thing to do, it’s impossible to know whom they have come into contact with, or whether you encountered anyone in your travels that could put them at risk.

Before booking a hotel or Airbnb, make sure you trust the sanitizing procedures. Don’t feel awkward calling to ask about their cleaning policies or to find out the last time someone occupied the space you reserved and how that space was cleaned.

Mask Up and Keep Distant

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Even though you may be visiting people you care for deeply, it is crucial to wear a mask and maintain distance. Close contact still poses a risk. Once you are indoors with anyone you become exposed to whatever they may have, which makes it important to keep your mask on.

The people you live with on a daily basis are the only ones you should feel confident in being close to or contacting. Honestly, you have no idea where anyone else has been.

We’re Here for You

AltaMed can provide information to you about the best way to protect yourself and your family during the holidays from COVID-19. We have a number of resources that you can share with those you plan to gather with. Learn more by calling (888) 499-9303.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

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AltaMed Is Here to Help You End the Year on a Healthy Note

November 30, 2020

If there’s anything we learned in 2020, it’s that nothing is more important than your health.
AltaMed is here this holiday season to help give the gift of health to yourself and your family in the following ways:

Flu Shots

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Even though flu season is already here, you should still get the influenza vaccine if you haven’t already. This year it may be more important than ever since there is no widely available vaccine for COVID-19. Getting vaccinated against the flu is a good way to prevent the pandemic worsening: spikes in flu cases with COVID-19 could swamp hospitals and endanger the health of our communities.

Open Enrollment

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This is the time of year when you can choose new insurance coverage or get coverage if you’re not insured. It’s also your chance to change doctors, dentists, hospitals, or specialists. During open enrollment, you have the opportunity to sign up for Medi-Cal or other options on the Covered California marketplace or Medicare if you’re over 65. If you’re confused about your options, contact us so we can help explain them.

Preventive Exams and Vaccines

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The pandemic might have made you hesitant to schedule some of your regular exams like mammograms, cervical exams, and well-woman exams. There is no need to put these off. Every AltaMed location provides protective equipment recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep patients and health care workers safe. This includes the ability to provide safe and effective vaccines for your children.

Dental Exams

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Do not neglect your teeth and gums. The mouth is the portal to your body, and healthy teeth and gums can prevent serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. AltaMed has taken extra measures to make sure we are providing you a safe environment to come in for regular dental checkups and procedures. 

Diabetes Care

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It’s important to maintain your regimen of care if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Doctors believe people with type 2 diabetes could become severely ill if they contract COVID-19. Less is known about patients with type 1 diabetes, but it is best to be cautious. Maintain at least a 30-day supply of medications, including insulin. Test your blood sugar and track the results. Contact AltaMed if you feel ill or have concerns about your condition.

Try Meatless Mondays

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Taking one day out of the week to forego meat can help change habits and lead to a healthier lifestyle. Alternatives to meat have come a long way from soy burgers and “not dogs.” They taste great and are better for you than processed meats. A meatless diet is also better for the planet. It takes 420 gallons of water to produce a quarter pound of beef. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make it a full-time commitment: giving up meat just one day a week can give you major health benefits. Talk with an AltaMed dietician to make sure you are getting the right amount of protein to supplement any plant-based diet.

Manage Stress

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Times are definitely stressful. But you don’t have to tackle the stress alone. AltaMed has certified behavioral health specialists to help you cope with the anxiety of the holidays, the change in seasons, the pandemic, or anything that may be on your mind. Call (855) 425-1777 for more information. If you are in crisis and having suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide prevention hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

Mask Up

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Please don’t take unnecessary chances during the holidays if you’re planning any get-togethers. Holiday traditions are great, but not at the risk of your health. Try to limit the size of your gathering. Also, make sure you and your guests wear masks when gathered, wash hands often, and follow CDC guidelines. Isolate yourself if you feel any symptoms of COVID-19 and call AltaMed if you need to get tested.

We’re Here for You

AltaMed can help you get through the holidays and grow healthy, for years to come with screenings, compassionate care at both office visits and telehealth appointments, and health education. You can get more information and find the links you need here. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season. 

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

COVID-19, Flu, Allergies or a Cold? A Helpful Guide to Knowing the Difference

March 17, 2020

In Southern California, flu season seems to last longer and longer each year. Thanks to drier winters and less rain, allergy season starts earlier every year. And at the moment, our nation is justifiably worried about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.

If you’ve got a sniffly nose, a sore throat, and a fever, you may not be 100% sure what you have. We’re here with information that will hopefully put your worries at ease, and help you determine what kind of care you need.

Are Coronavirus and COVID-19 the Same?


Not exactly. Coronavirus refers to a large family of viruses. Some of these viruses make people sick with the common cold. COVID-19 is the name of the disease we’ve all heard about. The type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is so new, we still don’t know very much about it.

COVID-19 vs. the Flu (influenza)

When we started to learn about COVID-19, many people compared it to influenza, most commonly known as the flu, in terms of symptoms and how it spreads. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by entirely different viruses.

Symptoms in common: Both illnesses cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, body aches, fatigue, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can be mild or severe and turn into pneumonia. Both can be fatal.

It may be possible for a sick person to have symptoms so mild, they don’t realize they have the disease, and so they may walk around spreading the virus to healthy people.

How the diseases spread: Both can be spread from person to person from the droplets that come from sneezing, coughing or even talking.

AND: Experts believe that COVID-19 is powerful enough to live on surfaces long after the infected person is no longer present.

Be proactive: Vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the flu. That’s why we strongly recommend everyone in your family get their shots every year.

There are now two COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized and recommended for use in the United States, and three other vaccines are currently in large-scale clinical trials. For more information and resources for COVID-19 and the vaccines, visit the Until everyone is vaccinated, your best bet for preventing it is proper handwashing, staying home if you’re sick, and social isolation.

Treatment: Because both diseases are caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t do any good. Instead, doctors aim to treat symptoms, such as reducing fever and suppressing a cough. However, both can be serious and require hospitalization.

Coronavirus vs. Allergies

Allergy symptoms are usually quite different from COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike COVID-19, which is a virus, allergies are your immune system’s response to a foreign substance.

Symptoms: Allergy symptoms include itchy or runny nose, rashes or itchy skin, and watery eyes. In extreme cases of anaphylactic shock, your air passage shuts down, and it rapidly becomes difficult to breathe. Difficulty breathing is also a symptom of COVID-19, but with allergies, the onset is almost immediately after encountering a specific trigger.

Transmission: Allergies aren’t contagious like a cold or flu, so there’s no chance of spreading it from one person to the next. Allergies do have a genetic component, which is why it may seem like other people in your family have them at the same time you do.

Prevention: Unless you do allergy testing and shots, your best method for preventing allergic reactions is to keep an allergy diary and then stay away from your triggers.

Treatment: You can usually treat allergy symptoms with common, over-the-counter remedies, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and medicated lotions to help relieve itchy rashes and hives.

COVID-19 vs. the Common Cold

Mild cases of COVID-19 may be mistaken for a cold.

Symptoms in common: Because many of the symptoms are the same, it can be tough to tell the difference. Experts say that if your first symptoms included a sore throat and runny nose, it’s likely just a cold. A fever could be a sign that it’s something more than a cold.

Prevention: The common cold is famously difficult to prevent. But following the same protocol for COVID-19 should help protect you.

Treatment: There’s not much you can do for a cold, other than treating the symptoms. Time-tested advice includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and taking age-appropriate over-the-counter remedies.

When Should I Go to the Doctor?

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First off, the good news is that about 80% of COVID-19 cases resolve quickly on their own when the person stays home, gets rest, and treats the symptoms.

Unless your symptoms get dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, you may not need to seek treatment (though it's OK to call your doctor and ask). AltaMed is advising our patients to treat mild symptoms just like you would treat a cold by staying home, taking over-the-counter cold treatments like Tylenol or Nyquil. Avoid other people until your symptoms go away for at least 72 hours without having to take these medications.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please confirm with your doctor the timing of when you are no longer contagious.

To learn more about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and news, bookmark our Coronavirus resource page. And for the time being, AltaMed is waiving the cost-sharing and co-pays for medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.