What MedStar Health is doing
The health of our patients, physicians, staff and visitors is our top priority. Our clinicians are well prepared to accurately screen for risk of COVID-19 and respond immediately to prevent further spread. We are following the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so that patients affected by COVID-19 will be able to get the care they need while protecting the health and safety of our associates and the community at large.
The safety of our patients will always be our top priority. Watch Dr. Terry Fairbanks, vice president and Chief Quality and Safety Officer, talk about the measures we've put in place to keep you safe and why he believes MedStar Health is still the best and safest place to receive care.
Please click here to learn more about the extra precautions we are taking to help you feel at ease during your care.
MedStar Health is a comprehensive system across Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region with hundreds of locations, including an extensive primary care and urgent care network, many telehealth options for urgent (eVisit) and non-urgent (Video Visit) care solutions, and acute care hospitals with world renowned experts in infectious disease and infection prevention.
Click here to read the current visitor policy.
Telehealth is an easy, convenient way to get health care via video for non-emergency medical conditions. Click here to learn more.
The availability of COVID-19 vaccines is a positive turning point in a public health crisis that has impacted all of us. Learn more about vaccine availability, safety, and general information.
If you need to be tested for Covid-19, click here to learn about testing options.
COVID recovery program
If you are at least 6 weeks from the start of COVID-19 symptoms, MedStar Health is offering a COVID Recovery Program to help you return to normal activities as soon as possible. To learn more, click here.
Support our healthcare workers
This is a critical time for caregivers and patients. Share your gratitude for our team by supporting our Coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts.
Symptoms: What you should do
Severe illness: If you are experiencing a medical emergency (such as severe shortness of breath, chest pain or altered mental status), please call 911 and request an ambulance.
Moderate or mild illness: MedStar Health offers easy-to-use telehealth options to see our providers online, so you don’t have to delay your care. You can utilize telehealth to help screen and treat your illness.
We have clinicians available 24/7 through MedStar eVisit, our virtual urgent care platform. Enroll at MedStar-eVisit.com or download the free iOS or Android mobile app, MedStar eVisit, from the App Store.
If you are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms, and do not wish to utilize MedStar eVisit, please do not go directly to your doctor’s office or emergency department without calling first. A phone call allows our team to determine the best location for you to be evaluated. In some cases this phone call may allow you to avoid an in-person evaluation, which helps minimize exposure to the public from those with less severe symptoms. If you choose to visit a clinic without calling, please use one of our many MedStar Health urgent care centers and place a mask on your face covering your nose and mouth as soon as you arrive to the clinic.
If you have an existing routine appointment in one of our outpatient offices, and you have respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should call your physician office prior to the appointment to discuss how your care will best be served.
If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms, please call ahead or take advantage of our telehealth application: MedStar eVisit, Please do not go directly to your doctor’s office without calling first, since many can isolate at home without being evaluated in person.
Many non-urgent office visits are being done through telehealth visits.
Stop the spread of germs
All patients/visitors must wear a face mask throughout the duration of their visit. Visitors are expected to bring their own face mask. If they do not have one, a procedural face mask will be provided. We also provide our patients with alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the reception area as well as throughout each clinic. In addition, every member of our team performs hand hygiene protocols before, during, and after all appointments and procedures (e.g., hand washing with antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub, or antiseptic hand wash). We wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when caring for all our patients. We also disinfect exam rooms between each patient.
Frequently asked questions
What is the visitor policy during COVID-19?
What is the face mask policy for patients and visitors?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the continued use of face masks in healthcare settings to prevent spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. Patients and visitors are expected to wear a face mask throughout the duration of their visit/stay.
Patients will be provided with a face mask upon entering a MedStar Health facility.
Visitors are expected to bring their own face mask. If they do not have one, a procedural face mask will be provided.
What is an antibody test?When you have an infection, your body makes proteins called antibodies that circulate in your blood. Antibodies help your body fight against pathogens (germs), such as the coronavirus COVID-19. An antibody test identifies these antibodies in your blood. A negative COVID-19 antibody test means that you do not have significant levels of antibodies for the COVID-19 coronavirus in your blood.
Does a positive antibody test mean that I'm immune?It is too soon to say. COVID-19 is a novel, or a new, type of coronavirus, and there remains a lot to be learned about it. However, it’s important to note two things. First, research indicates that there may be a large number of false positives – having a positive antibody test when you actually do NOT have antibodies present (potentially up to 50 percent) even for the most accurate tests on the market when the overall occurrence of the disease in our population is low as it is now. That means the test may falsely indicate the presence of antibodies in your blood. However, even if the test is accurate in predicting the presence of the antibodies in your blood, right now, we don’t know if this really has any value, which leads to the second critical point to note.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is not enough evidence right now to suggest that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from becoming infected again. While research is being conducted to determine whether the presence of antibodies indicates immunity for the COVID-19 virus, scientists have concluded that it’s not safe to rely on the test to make decisions about treatments.
The bottom line is you should not use a positive antibody test result to assume you can relax physical distancing/precautionary practices (such as wearing a mask to protect others) since you cannot be certain that you are immune from COVID-19.
If you have had the COVID-19 vaccine, it is most likely you will produce antibodies that are detected in our laboratory tests. This may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, the antibody tests currently available do not measure the amount of antibody present. Nor do these tests guarantee that the detected antibody neutralizes the SARS-COV-2 virus to prevent infection. Companies are working to make tests that can measure antibodies and neutralization available in the coming months.
Despite the production of antibodies after receiving the vaccine, we still recommend protection of yourself and others through continued use of masks and physical distancing; remember, the best vaccines are still only 95% effective. And, while a vaccine might prevent you from developing symptomatic disease, you may still pass the virus on to others.
Does MedStar Health offer antibody tests?
Yes, MedStar Health offers blood-based antibody tests. To request a test, please contact your primary care provider’s office. Your provider will arrange for you to receive the necessary referral orders for bloodwork at an approved lab. Testing will be performed at MedStar Health or a reference laboratory that uses a similarly rigorous testing system, such as Quest or LabCorp, as designated by your insurance provider.
It’s important to understand that the antibody test cannot tell you with great accuracy if you have been exposed to COVID-19. And we do not yet know if the presence of antibodies indicates immunity.
A negative test means the test didn’t detect antibodies in your bloodstream and they probably/likely are not there, but it is not a 100 percent certainty of being negative (meaning you have not been exposed).
As the largest provider in the region, it is our responsibility to empower patients with the most up-to-date information regarding antibody testing, as well as provide access to the best available testing platforms. Although major organizations like the WHO, CDC, and the State of Maryland do not endorse using these results due to insufficient data about the reliability of the tests, we are aware that many patients are still interested in undergoing antibody testing. To address this interest and ensure that you have access to the best antibody test currently available, our primary care and urgent care sites will offer access to antibody testing, as well as pre- and post-test counseling so that you understand your results and what they mean.
Are my antibody results being reported or shared anywhere?Individual results will not be shared with anyone, but de-identified (meaning you are not personally identified) aggregate data may be used to inform our epidemiologic studies; as an academic health system, we use de-identified test data to better understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and how to improve the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
Can an antibody test be used to determine if I'm currently infected with COVID-19?No. Antibody tests look for antibodies that the body makes after exposure to the virus. Because it takes time for your body to make antibodies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend using an antibody test to diagnose COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms include:
- Congestion or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
- Body aches
What should I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?Not everyone who feels sick needs to be tested. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and want to be screened, you can do so through MedStar eVisit or our COVID-19 symptom checker by texting COV19 to 77877. You may be referred to MedStar Health Urgent Care to be tested if you meet specific criteria. Note: test results can take 3 to 5 days to come back. If you believe you have COVID-19, and you are sick with fever, cough, and have worsening difficulty breathing, seek medical care right away. Follow these steps:
- Call your doctor's office before you go, even if you have already scheduled an appointment.
- Tell them if you believe you have COVID-19.
- Tell them about recent travel and close contacts (such as people in your household).
- If you are advised to seek medical attention, upon arrival, we will place a mask on you to protect you and those around you.
Visit MedStar Health’s COVID-19 testing page for more information.
I found out I've been exposed to COVID-19 and I have no symptoms. Should I quarantine from the date of exposure? Should I take a test?The CDC guidance on this topic states that if you have had close (fewer than six feet) prolonged (total of 15 minutes or more) contact with someone who has COVID, and are not vaccinated, you should quarantine. This means you should stay home for 14 days from the date of your last contact with the person who has COVID. Stay away from others. Monitor your health and look for signs of COVID like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If you have been vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine, but should get tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public for 14 days after exposure or until your test result is negative. If you have had COVID yourself in the last three months, you do not need to quarantine after an exposure unless you develop new symptoms.
Your local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last and if testing is allowed to reduce quarantine time. Options they will consider include stopping quarantine:
- After day 10 without testing
- After day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later)
After stopping quarantine, you should:
- Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
- If you have symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your local public health authority or healthcare provider.
- Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, and avoid crowds
What precautions should I follow while I am waiting for my COVID-19 test results to return?To help reduce the spread of infection, you should isolate at home until you are contacted by your healthcare provider with your test results. Test results generally take 2-3 days to return. If you have not heard from your healthcare provider within that period, or if your symptoms get worse, contact their office right away.
What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19Current recommendations for those who test positive are to complete a period of self-isolation to avoid spreading the infection to others. Contact a healthcare provider to review your symptoms and determine how long your period of self-isolation should last. This will vary based on your symptoms and whether you are living with others who also tested positive.
What does it mean to self-isolate?Self-isolation and self-quarantine are two strategies to help reduce the spread of infection. If your healthcare provider recommends self-isolation, you should only leave the house for urgent medical issues. You should not go to the grocery store, pharmacy, or have visitors to your home. Distance yourself from others living in your home (for example, use a separate bathroom or sleeping quarters, if possible) and arrange to have critical items delivered or picked up by family members.
I traveled to a geographic area of concern or have been around someone who recently has been in a geographic area of concern. Should I get tested?If you are vaccinated and you’ve traveled to an area of concern (or have been around someone who has been to an area of concern) but you are not experiencing symptoms, you do not need to be tested. However, if you are NOT vaccinated, current guidance from the CDC recommends testing these instances. Call your provider if you have any questions about being tested.
Should I wear a face mask when I go out in public?The CDC is now recommending masks in crowded outdoor spaces and indoors for vaccinated individuals in high-transmission areas (currently the entire country). Check out the CDC COVID Data Tracker for more information. For those with certain blood cancers or other immunocompromised conditions, you should mask at all times. It’s important that you talk with your doctor about your individual risk. Additionally, masking is still required in healthcare settings, as the risk of coming into contact with a vulnerable or immunocompromised patient is higher than in public. If you have not been vaccinated, the CDC recommends you still use prevention measures, including wearing a face mask and practicing physical distancing.
What can I do to protect myself and others?
Take everyday preventive steps that are always recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like colds and flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, your sleeve or your elbow
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; if you do so, wash your hands afterwards
- Avoid close contact (6 feet) with anyone who has symptoms or is sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using standard cleaning practices
- If you are sick, stay home, except when seeking medical care
- If you haven’t been vaccinated, please continue to wear a face mask and avoid close contact with others
What is the Delta variant?Delta is now the predominant COVID strain in our region. It accounts for more than 80% of samples tested in Maryland, and the percentage is growing in both D.C. and Maryland. The Delta variant has a shorter incubation period of 3 to 4 days instead of 5 to 7 days.
How do virus variants occur?
Viral variants commonly occur as a virus spreads throughout a population. As the number of infections with a certain virus increases, that virus has more opportunities to change (mutate) its genetic code in ways that are beneficial to the virus. For instance, scientists identified multiple mutations in the Delta variant that allowed it to enter cells more quickly, multiply more rapidly, and spread more easily. If you think about a virus like a long boxcar train, mutations occur when a box car (or long section of box cars) are removed and replaced. What’s left is still a long train with many box cars, but in a different order.
Why are COVID-19 variants worrisome?
Variants become worrisome when they pose a potential threat to public health in the form of increased transmissibility, more severe disease, and/or resistance to treatments and prevention or detection methods. The CDC developed a classification system to track variants according to these characteristics.
Variants Being Monitored (VBM) have been associated with higher transmission or more severe disease, but are no longer circulating among the population or are circulating at very low levels. The original alpha and beta variants that initiated the COVID-19 global pandemic are now considered variants being monitored as Delta became the dominant variant.
Variants of Concern (VOC) have also been associated with higher transmission or more severe disease, and require significant measures to control spread, including increased testing and monitoring of vaccine effectiveness. In the U.S., both the
Delta and Omicron variants are considered variants of concern. Variants of High Consequence (VOHC) are potentially undetectable by current tests, untreatable with available therapies (like monoclonal antibody treatments), and not limited by current vaccines. There are no VOHC globally or in the U.S.
To prevent the development of more variants of concern, or a variant of high consequence, it is recommended that everyone get vaccinated, and that those who are vaccinated receive a booster dose. There is no evidence that Delta or Omicron variants have significantly reduced vaccine effectiveness. The fewer people who are infected with the virus at any given time, the fewer chances the virus has to mutate. It is also recommended that you continue all other prevention strategies, including masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene.
MedStar Health resources
- MedStar eVisit, 24/7 virtual urgent care
- MedStar Health Video Visits, telehealth (virtual visit) for a non-urgent care appointment with a provider
- Temporary Visitor Policies and Guidance
- COVID-19 Testing Options
Resources for Transplant Patients
- FAQs for transplant patients
- Resources for children, teens and families
- National Kidney Foundation - Reopening, COVID-19 second wave, and kidney disease
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Maryland Department of Health
- Maryland COVID-19 Testing Sites
- District of Columbia Hospital Association (DCHA)
- Virginia Department of Health
- Maryland Hospital Association (MHA)
MedStar Health’s infectious disease and incident preparedness experts are closely monitoring developments and coordinating with national and local health authorities, and we will update this information as the situation evolves.
COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests: MedStar Health hospitals and MedStar Health urgent care facilities will accept reimbursement of $51.31 for the COVID-19 test using either CPT Code 87635 or HCPCS code U0002 (as applicable) and $100 for COVID-19 testing using either HCPCS code U0003 or U0004.