March 10, 2022: TSA extends mask use until April 18, 2022
“At CDC’s recommendation, TSA will extend the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18th.
During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor. This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change”. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/s0310-TSA-masks.html
January 14, 2022: CDC updates recommendations on types of masks worn.
The CDC is now recommending that people wear double masks or respirator masks like the N95 mask. The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) recommends N95 over KN95 because the KN95 meets international standards, instead of US standards. This means that manufacturers of KN95s don’t always have a quality standard to meet. If you wear anything less than an N95, the mask(s) you wear should not gap anywhere along your face, covering your nose, mouth, and chin, and should be consistently worn, minimizing taking it off and on. CDC recommends if you wear cloth or disposable masks, layer them and wear them together. For more information on the CDC mask recommendations go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html or go to https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/n95list1.html for a list of NIOSH approved N95 manufacturers.
January 7, 2022: NCDHHS Says keeping students or staff members from school following a COVID-19 exposure should be a last resort. Releases options to keep K-12 students and staff in school following exposure to Covid-19
From the NCDHHS page: The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has added a Test-to-Stay option for K-12 students and staff who have had an exposure to Covid-19, instead of sending the individual home. Read more at https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/2022/01/07/ncdhhs-school-guidance-encourages-vaccines-and-masking-keep-students-classroom-provides-new-test
January 4, 2022: CDC now recommends shortening Moderna booster waiting time.
The CDC has now shortened the waiting period for the Moderna booster from 6 months to 5 months for those 18 years and older. This means that you may now receive the booster at least 5 months after completing your 2 dose series. On January 7, the FDA amended the EUA for the Moderna vaccine to allow for the 5-month booster. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-shortens-interval-booster-dose-moderna-covid-19-vaccine-five-months
December 28, 2021: Omicron and testing variations data emerging
FDA updated their viral mutations information page to share new information regarding the impact of the omicron variant on antigen diagnostic tests. Molecular, antigen, and serology tests are affected by viral mutations differently due to the differences of each test. In collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s RADx program, the FDA says that although early data suggest that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant, they may have reduced sensitivity which can lead to false negatives.
December 27, 2021: CDC Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period
People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html
December 22, 2021: Home antigen test may not be accurate in detecting Omicron
FDA issues a warning that at-home Covid-19 tests may not be as accurate in detecting Omicron variant and therefore resulting in a false-negative. The presence of mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a patient sample can potentially impact test performance. The impact of mutations on a test’s performance is influenced by several factors, including the sequence of the variant, the design of the test, and the prevalence of the variant in the population.
December 22, 2021: First oral antiviral covid-19 drug approved
The FDA issues an emergency use authorization for the first oral antiviral for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients. Pfizer’s Paxlovid is not authorized for the pre-exposure or post-exposure prevention of COVID-19 or for initiation of treatment in those requiring hospitalization due to severe or critical COVID-19. Paxlovid is for the treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus in adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older, with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-first-oral-antiviral-treatment-covid-19
December 20, 2021: Omicron spreading across the US
Omicron has been detected in most states and territories and is rapidly increasing the proportion of COVID-19 cases it is causing. Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant but it is important to note, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are happening all over the country.
Dec. 17, 2021: Early data on Omicron emerges
Early evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus. According to the NCDHHS, data collected so far show a more rapid decrease of protection after the primary vaccination series than was seen with Delta or other variants, and the CDC is still recommending booster shots for everyone.
December 14, 2021: FDA updates J&J vaccine fact sheets and information.
Cases of TTS (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome) (blood clots) following administration of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine have been reported in males and females 18 years of age and older, with the highest reporting rate in females 30-49 years of age; overall, approximately 1 out of 7 cases has been fatal. The FDA has updated the vaccine fact sheets for individuals and healthcare professionals.
December 1, 2021: First US confirmed case of Omicron
The first confirmed U.S. case of Omicron was identified. According to the WHO, initial reports that suggest that Omicron is less severe compared to Delta and a change in the symptoms that people present with Omicron compared to Delta, have not changed. https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron
November 30, 2021: Omicron named a concern in the US
The United States designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern.
November 26, 2021: Omicron variant named
WHO named the B.1.1.529 Omicron and classified it as a Variant of Concern (VOC).
November 24, 2021: Another new variant identified
A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.529, was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). This new variant was first detected in specimens collected on November 11, 2021 in Botswana and on November 14, 2021 in South Africa.
November 22, 2021: Everyone now eligible for booster
The U.S. FDA and CDC have expanded eligibility for COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters. A single booster dose of the Moderna vaccine has been approved for everyone, 18 and over. Studies show after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time and due to changes in variants. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-expands-eligibility-covid-19-vaccine-boosters
The FDA has approved one vaccine (Comirnaty) and emergency use authorized others (Moderna, Janssen) to prevent COVID-19 and serious clinical outcomes associated with a COVID-19 infection, including hospitalization and death.
Nov. 22, 2021: FDA approves three OTC Covid-19 antigen tests
The FDA authorized three over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 antigen diagnostic tests for people age 14 years or older with a self-collected nasal swab sample or people age 2 years or older when an adult collects the nasal swab sample. InBios SCoV-2 Ag Detect Rapid Self-Test , Access Bio CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test and CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test. If you cannot find these two, Med First has the tests you need.
November 19, 2021: Pfizer Vaccine booster for children 16 and 17 years old.
The FDA has also expanded the use of a single booster dose of the Pfizer Vaccine for children 16 and 17 years of age at least six months after completion of a primary series of the Pfizer vaccine. The FDA-authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the FDA-approved Comirnaty (COVID-19 Vaccine, mRNA) are the only COVID-19 vaccines currently available for the 16- and 17- year-old age group. Individuals who are 16 and 17 years of age should only receive the Pfizer Vaccine or Comirnaty as their booster dose. Due to extreme storage requirements, Med First does not carry the Pfizer vaccine. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-expands-eligibility-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-booster-dose-16-and-17
October 20, 2021: Moderna and Janssen Booster approved
Moderna and Janssen Booster have now been approved for high-risk and those 65 years and older. Read below for information on the mix and match dosing of vaccines, scheduling, and Med First locations that offer the booster shot. CDC’s recommendations now allow for mix and match dosing for booster shots. This means that whether you prefer to receive the vaccine that you originally received, or if you want to get a different booster, you have options. If you received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after completing the initial series. You must be 18 years of age or older. If you received the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine you are eligible to receive a single booster if you received the initial vaccine, at least 2 months ago. You must be 18 years of age or older. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-takes-additional-actions-use-booster-dose-covid-19-vaccines
September 22, 2021: Pfizer booster approved
FDA amends the EUA for the Pfizer booster for individuals 65 years of age and older; individuals 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19; and individuals 18 through 64 years of age who have frequent exposure to Covid-19 and are therefore at high risk of severe COVID-19. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-booster-dose-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-certain-populations
August 23, 2021: First FDA vaccine approval- Comirnaty
FDA announced the first approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older. This is different from the EUA approved vaccine approvals. https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/comirnaty-and-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine
August 28, 2021: New variant identified
The Delta variant of concern (B.1.617.2) is now the predominant variant in the United States, with 99% of sequenced specimens being identified as Delta. The CDC says that the Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of SARS-CoV-2 and that people infected with the Delta variant, including fully vaccinated people with symptomatic breakthrough infections, can transmit the virus to others. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html
August 12, 2021: Vaccine Booster for certain groups
FDA Authorizes Additional Vaccine Dose for Certain Immunocompromised Individuals. “Other fully vaccinated individuals do not need an additional vaccine dose right now”. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-additional-vaccine-dose-certain-immunocompromised
July 8, 2021: Joint CDC and FDA Statement on Vaccine Boosters
Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary. This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data – which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but does not rely on those data exclusively. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/joint-cdc-and-fda-statement-vaccine-boosters
March 19, 2021: Covid-19 vaccine now available
The Covid-19 vaccine is now available in North Carolina for those 18 and older. Med First worked hard to be one of the first healthcare providers in North Carolina to begin providing the vaccine to anyone over 18 at all of our locations. Experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. Doing what you can to protect yourself from this virus is important because, for some people, it can cause severe illness or death. There is no out-of-pocket charge for the vaccine, so don’t delay getting your vaccine. It typically takes two weeks after you are fully vaccinated for the body to build immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19. CDC recommends that you do not delay getting your vaccine, so schedule your appointment at any of our participating locations and get started on building your immunity today.
May 14, 2021: Testing for Travel
Once you know which test you need, Med First can help you prepare by offering the required tests that will allow you to travel anywhere in the world. There are two different types of tests – diagnostic tests and antibody tests.
Diagnostic tests can show if you currently have an active COVID-19 infection and need to take steps to quarantine or isolate yourself from others.
The types of diagnostic tests available are molecular and antigen. These tests are either rapid which means they are processed and resulted in the clinic while you wait, or they are swabs that are sent to an outside laboratory for processing and typically take a few days for results.
MED FIRST OFFERS THE FOLLOWING DIAGNOSTIC TESTING: Rapid COVID Molecular (NAAT), COVID PCR, Rapid COVID PCR & Rapid Antibody tests.
January 1, 2021: Rapid covid-19 Antibody test now available
Med First is happy to announce that we now have the FDA-authorized COVID-19 rapid antibody test available at all locations.
November 13, 2020: Covid testing now available for Self-scheduling booking
NOW OFFERING RAPID COVID-19 ANTIBODY, RAPID COVID-19 MOLECULAR (NAAT), AND COVID-19 PCR (SEND OUT) TESTING VIA SELF-SCHEDULED IN-CLINIC APPOINTMENTS. Now, whether you are a new patient or an established patient, simply log in or sign up on our secure patient portal to effortlessly search for and book your Covid services appointment. In order to best serve you, we recommend an appointment to minimize wait times. For your convenience, most Covid-19 testing services are covered by insurance and Med First accepts most major insurances. Cash pay rates are also available for self-pay patients.
July 10, 2020: Rapid point-of-care 15 minute test
Med First is one of the few providers in North Carolina that offers rapid Covid-19 testing. These FDA-EUA authorized tests from Quidel and Abbott produce objective and reliable results in as little as 15 minutes! Both the antigen and the molecular point-of-care tests use a nasal swab to detect the virus that causes Covid-19. In molecular testing, a unique section of the coronavirus genome is recognized and detected, while in antigen testing, unique proteins from the virus that causes Covid-19 are detected. Both types of rapid tests are accurate and can deliver results to your Med First Provider within 15 minutes.
So, who can get a Rapid test? Anyone with symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should contact a medical professional for evaluation (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing). You can find a list of Covid-19 symptoms here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
What to know about Coronavirus if you are 65 and older: 3/26/2020
According to CDC, older adults, 65 and over, and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease, and those with weakened immune systems seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.
If you are over 65 or have a serious underlying medical condition:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use sanitizer often.
- Stay home if possible avoiding unnecessary travel.
- Avoid close contact (6 feet, which is about two arm lengths) with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home.
- Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
- Call your Med First healthcare professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 and your underlying condition or if you are sick.
NCDHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection but if you have an appointment with your Med First healthcare provider, please keep it or call ahead to inquire about alternative office visit options like telephonic or virtual visits.
Med First is working hard to continue providing you with safe, high-quality, and compassionate healthcare during this crisis. Here is what we are doing for YOU:
- Offering Phone visits for many visit types.
- Offering Telemedicine (Virtual visits) for many visit types.
- Offering curbside COVID-19 testing at all locations.
- Working hard with key suppliers to ensure we have COVID-19 test kits at all of our locations
- Raising our already high standard of sanitation and safety protocols in all locations.
- *Telemedicine and phone visits are covered by most insurance plans but please contact your insurance plan or call ahead to inquire about your coverage.
- * COVID-19 test kits are available while supplies last.
- * Curbside testing is offered after a visit with the Provider if deemed medically necessary.
Tips to Stay Healthy During the Coronavirus/ COVID-19 health crisis: 3/23/2020
Current data shows that individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19. Whether you are a current patient, in need of primary care, or have an urgent care need, Med First can help you keep your health on track, follow up on current health conditions and address immediate care needs. All of our locations are open, and we have taken special precautions in our offices to ensure we do our best to keep our patients and healthcare teams healthy during this crisis. If you are a Med First patient and have an upcoming appointment or need to discuss a new health concern, keep your appointment or call to make a new one.
Actions can you take to keep your body resilient and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis:
- Quit smoking and vaping now. Emerging evidence suggests that those who smoke may be at greater risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19. In addition, it is well-established that stopping smoking improves lung function relatively quickly (within a few months,) which reduces susceptibility to respiratory illnesses and improves immune function, along with many other benefits not directly related to COVID-19. Our Med First providers can help you quit smoking, call and ask your Provider today.
- Keep your diabetes under control. Follow your Med First Provider’s recommendations on your diet, medication plan, and testing. In the event, you are sick and unable to eat, keep simple carbs nearby like juice, honey, jam, and hard candies to help keep your blood sugar up. Make a new appointment or keep your follow-up appointment at Med First to talk about getting your blood sugar under control or getting tested.
- Keep your Blood pressure under control. Do this by limiting alcohol and sodium intake, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity (in whatever way you can while following social distancing and your local and state government guidance), and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables (frozen or canned is fine too, just watch for added sodium or sugar). Our Med First team can check your blood pressure and treat you if needed.
- If you haven’t yet, get a flu vaccine. It is not too late to protect yourself from the flu, so call or request an appointment online to get your flu shot at Med First today.
- Stay tuned for more information and new services at Med First locations.
In order to minimize exposure to Coronavirus, Med First has implemented curbside COVID-19 testing when ruled medically necessary by our Healthcare team. If there is a possibility that you have been exposed to the Coronavirus, or are having symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, and cough, please call the clinic phone number to speak to a team member before coming to the clinic. If you are unable to get through to someone during the hours of 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, please call Outreach at (910) 455-0052.
ATTENTION: Additional Safety Protocols
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, we are implementing additional safety protocols as recommended by the CDC in order to minimize the spread of infection in our communities. Testing will be provided at the discretion of the Medical Provider on staff according to the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the NC DHHS, as test kits are available.
What to Expect at Med First Locations:
In order to best minimize unnecessary exposure of the COVID-19 virus to you, our staff, and other patients, we are asking that if you have traveled through any airports in the last two weeks (including domestic), have had contact with someone that has traveled internationally, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, that you call ahead to speak to our medical staff to notify them prior to coming to the clinic. If you suspect that you have been exposed but are not experiencing a fever or cough, please call ahead and disclose the method of possible exposure (such as recent out-of-state air travel). Upon your arrival, please notify the staff immediately that you have called ahead for a suspected COVID-19 infection. This is a necessary step so that upon your arrival, we can promptly perform the necessary testing while also maintaining a high level of customer service and care. Following these protocols will help minimize exposure to others and the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
Please note, no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19 is available; antibiotics are not effective against this virus and care is supportive only.