As we approach the official end of the Public Health Emergency for the COVID-19 Pandemic, we wanted to once again update our policies for keeping you safe.
Starting May 1, masking will no longer be mandatory in our office. For those individuals with a cough or other cold symptoms, we will still require masks that cover the mouth and nose. This is important for the health and safety of other patients and team members.
We decided to make this change in our masking policy after a careful analysis of COVID rates in Southern Maine. Prevalence of the disease has been low, vaccination rates are high, and COVID-related hospitalizations continue to decline. Other large healthcare networks including Maine Medical Center and Northern Lights Health have taken the lead with similar policy changes. Everyone is welcome to mask if they wish. If you choose to mask and would be more comfortable if your care team does as well, please let us know and we will wear one.
Precautions that remain unchanged include:
- If you have symptoms, you may need to take an at-home COVID test before an in-person visit. Please call us with your situation and your test results and to discuss options, including whether or not you should come in for your visit.
- We will continue to make masks available at all entrances to our office.
- Our staff will mask when caring for patients with symptoms or who request that we do so.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month updated its COVID vaccine recommendations. The changes include:
- An additional updated (bivalent) vaccine dose for adults ages 65 years and older and for people who are immuno-compromised.
- Monovalent (original) mRNA COVID vaccines are no longer authorized for use in the United States.
- Recommendation that everyone 6 years and older receive an updated (bivalent) mRNA COVID vaccine, regardless of whether they previously completed their (monovalent) primary series. Individuals 6 years and older who have already received an updated mRNA vaccine do not need to take any action unless they are 65 years or older or immuno-compromised.
- For young children, multiple doses continue to be recommended and will vary by age, vaccine, and which vaccine(s) they previously received.
For additional details, visit the CDC’s Stay Up to Date with Vaccines webpage.
On May 11, the federal government’s Public Health Emergency will expire, as will a number of measures designed to provide flexibility earlier in the pandemic response:
- Prescriptions: Patients may need to see us in person, rather than in a telehealth visit, for medication management and other simple or primarily-discussion medical visits. Please check with your insurance company to see if telehealth visits will still be covered by your plan.
- Vaccinations: Commercial insurance may have a co-pay for COVID-19 vaccines.
- COVID-19 testing: Your health plan will cover the cost of a laboratory test if it is ordered by your doctor and you are symptomatic or have been exposed, but not necessarily in other cases. Due to our limited resources including lack of adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), we do not perform testing at our office; we preferentially refer you to one of the state designated Test-to-Treat sites. At-home tests may no longer be reimbursed by your health plan. Free at-home tests are currently available through these programs:
We are happy to announce that we reached out to our entire adult patient population to ensure that they are aware of the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. We have been able to provide over 100 doses of vaccine ourselves and connect many patients to resources to get successfully vaccinated elsewhere. If you have not yet been vaccinated or boosted and desire to do so, we want our patients to know about where to sign up to get the vaccine now that our supply is gone. Many of the listed sites are offering the primary series and the vaccine boosters without an appointment. Some sites are offering the vaccine for children ages 6 months and up and the booster for children ages 5 years and up.
The best resource is the Maine CDC website at http://www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites.
As of April 23, 2023, the most local options are:
- Southern Maine Health Care walk-in Clinic in Waterboro with walk-in availability M-F 8-4 and in Sanford and Saco with walk-in availability 8am to 7pm daily.
- Bridgton Hospital call 207-520-2917.
- Community Pharmacy Gorham offering walk-in vaccines for ages 12+ (T-F 10-5 and Sat-Sun 10-1), or by appointment for ages 3-11 by calling 839-7892.
- Northern Light Home Care and Hospice call 800-757-3326.
- Hannaford pharmacy (Waterboro, Biddeford, Buxton, Bridgton, Sanford, South Portland, Standish) visit https://www.hannaford.com/pharmacy/covid-19-vaccine
- Nasson Health Care (Sanford) with walk-in availability 9-4 on weekdays or call 490-6900 for an appointment.
- Southern Maine Health Care (Biddeford) call the MaineHealth Vaccine Assistant at 877-780-7545.
- Southern Maine Health Care Walk-in (Sanford 8am-7pm, Waterboro 8am-4pm M-F, Saco 8am-7pm).
- Walmart pharmacy (Biddeford, Sanford, Scarborough) visit www.walmart.com/COVIDvaccine. Drop-in appointments are available.
- Walgreen’s pharmacy by appointment only (Cornish, Buxton, Gorham, Sanford, Springvale, Biddeford, Bridgton, Scarborough) visit Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine or call 1-800-Walgreens.
COVID-19 Prescription Treatment Access
According to the Maine CDC website, COVID-19 treatment is highly effective at preventing a mild or moderate illness from progressing to becoming severe and life-threatening. Treatment is available for unvaccinated individuals, adults age 50 and older and for other people at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, such as those who are immuno-compromised, have chronic lung or kidney disease, have diabetes, or who smoke (For full list, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html ). It does not replace vaccination.
COVID-19 treatment works best if started within the first 5–7 days after symptoms begin. Treatment is only available for people with COVID-19 symptoms and a positive COVID-19 test, which can include an at-home test. A doctor needs to determine if you are eligible for treatment, and while Drs. David and Kathryn are qualified to prescribe medication, testing cannot be done at our facility, some of the medications require additional lab testing or pharmacy oversight that we cannot provide, and we cannot guarantee that you will be able to get a prescribed medication filled as the number of pharmacies who carry the medications are limited. We highly recommend going to a state designated “Test-to-Treat” location where anyone can go to get tested, be seen by a medical provider, and get treated, with access to medication guaranteed, if deemed appropriate. Some sites offer tele-health options so consider calling ahead.
Visit https://www.maine.gov/covid19/treatment/where-to-get-treated to find a provider nearest you and contact that location for more information before going. As of April 23, 2023, the closest area Test-to-Treat locations are:
- Bridgton Hospital in Bridgton at 330-7352
- Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland at 204-8551
- Southern Maine Health Care Walk-in clinics in Waterboro, Sanford, and Saco at 866-722-5165
- Convenient MD Urgent Care in Saco at 751-7991
- Convenient MD Urgent Care in Sanford at 850-5744
- Maine Health Spring Street Health and Infusion Center at 396-7300