COVID-19 Related Office Policy FAQ
Is Tullyview Allergy open again for office appointments?
Yes. For seven weeks between late March and early May, Tullyview Allergy was closed for in-person office appointments in the interest of safety as COVID-19 cases in Berks County and the state were rapidly increasing. Allergy shots were still administered at the front door using our social distancing protocols. New patient and follow-up appointments were conducted via telemedicine video conferencing for interested persons as their insurance allowed. When the PA Dept. of Health and the Governor’s office began to allow business re-openings, we began scheduling patients in a limited fashion at first and have steadily increased that number. We hope to remain open as long as it is considered to be safe in this community, provided that cases don’t rise again significantly like they are in other parts of the country, and shutdowns are mandated again. We’ve adopted similar social distancing protocols for our office appointments as we did for our shot appointments. All patients entering the office for a shot or office appointment at the office MUST wear a mask and are limited to only 1 support person to accompany them at their visit.
What if I am healthy and just need prescription refills?
As you know, it has always been our office policy for patients to remain current with their follow-up appointments (every 6-12 months as appropriate) in order to receive refills. When the office was closed for follow-up appointments, three month prescription renewals were granted to anyone who called as long as it wasn’t too far beyond their recommended follow-up time. Now that the office is open again, we are again requiring patients to schedule follow-up appointments in order to remain current and obtain your prescription renewals. Scores of cancelled appointments from March through early May are in the process of being rescheduled. If you still feel uncomfortable coming to the office, please call us when you are ready to come in for a visit. As it was prior to the pandemic, we are not responding to pharmacy-generated requests for refills, as these are usually auto-refill requests and we have found that the majority are for medications that aren’t required yet. Patients requiring prescriptions should call us directly.
What if I need a sick appointment?
While we can provide you guidance regarding the majority of your allergy and asthma problems in person or on the telephone as deemed appropriate, we have to remain a “well” office due the high risk nature of some of our patients. Therefore we will not see any patients in the office with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Those individuals (who have called in) requiring more than simple quarantine-at-home will be directed to an urgent care clinic that performs COVID-19 testing and treatment, or to the emergency room.
What if I am looking for a new patient appointment?
Tullyview Allergy is accepting new patients again as we did before the pandemic, and all appointments will follow the same social distancing protocols as our follow-up appointments. We are trying to reschedule those patients whose appointments had been cancelled in March and April as a priority, and the arrival of our new physician, Dr. Aparna Daley, in July will make it easier to accommodate everyone sooner. While we are performing allergy skin testing, patch testing and oral challenges again, spirometry (lung function testing) is still suspended because it is felt to be a high-risk procedure during the pandemic.
Do I still need my allergy shots?
At the height of the pandemic in Pennsylvania, many Tullyview Allergy shot patients suspended their immunotherapy while sheltering-in-place. Some of those discovered that they still did well despite the fact that our spring pollen counts were higher than during the previous couple of years, and decided to remain off of allergy shots indefinitely. Others experienced an increase in symptoms however, and have scheduled themselves for allergy shot rebuildup appointments. The number of weekly re-buildup doses required will depend on how long you have been absent from the office, how often you were receiving injections prior to the pandemic, and how long you have been receiving shots overall.
Berks County is now in Pennsylvania’s “green” zone for re-opening, so why do I still need to make appointments for my shots?
Unfortunately entering the green zone for re-opening does not mean a return to normal. Although more businesses have been allowed to re-open following social distancing guidelines, all businesses must still follow those rules. Given the fact that Tullyview Allergy takes care of many high risk respiratory patients, we will continue our current scheduling and distancing protocols as long as any precautions are necessary. There is no “middle ground” for safe operation of this business, and our busy pre-pandemic business model is not acceptable now. It may be many months before Tullyview Allergy can return to offering open shot hours again.
Can I get my shot if I am sick?
No. Patients with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 infection, with a history of exposure to a known or suspected person with COVID-19, or who have traveled to/from an area of high involvement in the last two weeks should under no circumstances come to the office for an allergy shot. This includes all international travelers and those returning from a growing list of states as recommended by the PA Dept. of Health. Even if your symptoms are mild or minimal, you pose a significant risk to our staff and subsequently every other patient we see afterwards. At minimum you should be in self-quarantine, and we can provide some guidance if you are experiencing mild symptoms. For those that are experiencing more severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention, our local hospitals and urgent care centers have set up assessment and testing locations.
What if I already made a shot or office appointment and then became sick?
You should not come to the office if you are sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Rather, please call the office to cancel and reschedule so that we can help you manage your symptoms and open up the appointment for someone else.
What happens when I am due for my next allergy shot or Xolair/Nucala shot?
Please call the office at 610-478-4033 the week before you are due for your next shot. Calls that go to voice mail will be returned as soon as possible when the office is open. Please do not leave duplicate messages to make a shot appointment. See the link to our detailed shot rules below:
Is it safe to receive shots at the office?
Our rules cannot guarantee against the possibility of a coronavirus infection, but we feel that the conditions are as safe as we can provide given the circumstances. The success of our protocol depends on cooperation from everyone involved, and if you are sick please do not schedule an appointment.
Is it really safe to wait in my car after my shot?
We have never allowed patients to wait in their cars after their shots before, and AAAAI guidelines still do not recommend it now. However, it is something that some other allergy practices are doing during this crisis, and something that we are in a unique position to allow under certain conditions given the configuration of our waiting room where shots are now being given, and its close proximity to the front row of the parking lot. Patients with a slightly higher risk of a reaction (i.e. those on buildup, venom shots or Xolair/Nucala, and those with a prior history of a systemic reaction) must still wait inside in their own separate exam room. Once things return to normal, we won’t be allowing people to wait in their cars anymore.
For those patients who are concerned about excessive heat in the summer, we recommend bringing along bottled water to drink while waiting and turning on the air conditioner in your car for a few minutes if the heat becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide shade in the parking lot, as requested. Many stores sell small, hand-held fans that also spray water for a minimal cost.
Why can’t I self-administer my shots at home?
Home administration is still strongly discouraged except in special cases such as in patients with a history of venom (bee sting) anaphylaxis living in a remote area. Even with an epinephrine autoinjector at home, your ability to treat a severe allergic shot reaction is compromised, and the resultant trip to the emergency room would expose you to a greater number of people than you would in our office.
Why is social distancing important?
Since there is potential for spread of the coronavirus infection from individuals with minimal or no symptoms, and COVID-19 has been identified in our community, we must consider the possibility that any of us could spread the infection without even knowing we have it. Even individuals who have previously tested negative could have contracted the virus since that test. Therefore it is important to wear a mask and maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet apart) as much as possible, no matter where we are or what we are doing. The latest updates on and recommendations from the PA Dept. of Health and the governor’s office are available at on.pa.gov/coronavirus.
If I have asthma, what can I do to protect myself during the coronavirus pandemic?
Although current data suggests that asthma may not be as big of a risk factor for a severe COVID-19 infection as COPD, heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and obesity, limited studies and common sense indicates that it is best to keep your asthma control at an optimum level by taking your controller (preventative) medication regularly as prescribed, and adding appropriate rescue medication (albuterol or other) when you begin to experience asthma symptoms. By maintaining good control you should be in a better position to cope with a coronavirus infection if it occurs.
What should I do if I think I have or have been exposed to coronavirus?
The most common symptoms of a coronavirus infection (COVID -19) are fever, cough and shortness of breath, but there can be other symptoms such as chills, body aches, sore throat, runny nose and diarrhea. Some of the lesser symptoms are similar to what you might experience from other viral infections or allergies. In most cases of COVID-19 you simply need to rest and recover at home, and quarantine yourself during this time. Our office or your PCP office can provide phone or telemedicine advice and hopefully help guide you through your illness at home. More severe cases will require evaluation and/or testing at one of our local hospitals’ established evaluation centers or urgent care centers, and of course some will require hospitalization. Individuals who have been exposed to a known COVID-19 positive patient, a suspected COVID-19 patient, or recently traveled to an area with a high rate of infection should quarantine themselves for 14 days afterwards.
Where can I get more information on coronavirus infection, or COVID-19?