Coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you have a fever, a persistent cough or are experiencing shortness of breath, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER our premises. Do not go to the reception area, even if it is just to reschedule the appointment. Many of our patients are on immunosuppressive medications and exposing them to COVID-19 must be avoided. We are checking patient temperatures at the front door.

We are closely monitoring the public health recommendations and announcements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Among other things, the CDC suggests washing your hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings. Our offices are still open for regular business. If you use immunosuppressive drugs, and have no symptoms of infection, you should continue your usual treatment.

The safety of our patients and staff is paramount, so we’ve added extra precautions: Those who have travelled internationally, come in contact with COVID-19, or experienced flu-like symptoms such as a fever, persistent cough, or shortness of breath in the past two weeks must reschedule their appointments, free of charge. We have increased our frequency of disinfecting high-touch areas and usage of gloves and masks.

What you need to know about COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease) while being a patient at AARA.

At Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates (AARA), we care deeply about our patients and your health is our top priority. COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease) has been identified and confirmed in our state of Arizona. To date, the most effective way of limiting the spread of the virus is frequent handwashing for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap, limiting contact with others and minimizing unnecessary gatherings where close contact may occur.

The reason that this virus is different than others that we deal with is that it may be spread by contact of people who are not having symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and/or shortness of breath. What we know at this point is that in the early stages of the viral illness, you may experience body aches and fatigue, but then shortly thereafter within 2-3 days you may have a high fever of >102 degrees. The incubation period, which is the time it takes before seeing clear symptoms of Coronavirus may take up to 14 days. We also know that the virus may be present on surfaces and be contracted by contact with theses surfaces. This is why frequent hand washing is essential. It is also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as this is how the virus is transferred into the body. We will be taking extra precautions beyond handwashing with increased sterilization of office surfaces, utilization of gloves and in some instances, masks.

We are staying up to date with all of the evolving science in patients who are on immunosuppressive medications in the face of this pandemic. Thus far, major medical organizations in the field of Rheumatology have given some guidance. As always, we stand committed to continue to provide the best and safest care possible to all of our patients. Many of our patients who are on immunosuppressive medications have already reached out to our offices regarding whether or not they should discontinue some or all of these medications.

Generally speaking, we offer the following advice:

People who use immunosuppressive drugs, and have no symptoms of infection, should continue their usual treatment. As always, if signs of infection with fever and other influenza-like symptoms should occur, a brief break from the immunosuppressive therapy may be appropriate. This assumes, however, that the patient is not completely dependent upon these specific medications. Prednisone and other cortisone (steroid) preparations should never be discontinued abruptly.

Patients have also contacted our office inquiring about how COVID-19 may, or may not, affect their particular disease state. Although we do know that there some issues that put some people at higher risk, such as age over 65, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and those who are immunosuppressed, at this point, there is no clear evidence around specific rheumatic diseases that we treat at AARA.

There are many ways that you can help us effectively help treat you and minimize your specific risk. Your partnership includes:
a) Being better informed about this viral illness and as such see the links below, visit our website and learn the answers to the most frequently asked questions.
b) Frequent hand washing
c) Informing us by telephone or portal messaging that you have symptoms of fever, dry cough or shortness of breath or have come into contact with someone with the disease
d) Temporarily holding your self-administered medication (including methotrexate, leflunomide, Arava, Otezla, Enbrel, Humira, Actemra, Simponi, Orencia, Cimzia, Kevzarra, Taltz, Cosentyx, Stelara, Rinvoq, Xeljanz and Olumiant) ONLY if you experience symptoms.
e) Avoid coming into the office if you are having any symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath and please go to your local ER if you suspect you may have Coronavirus.
f) Please do not bring anyone who does not absolutely need to be with you to your appointments, especially children and elderly parents. This is to decrease the risk of potentially spreading the virus to either yourself and others.
g) Minimize unnecessary calls to the office, as we need to make sure the phone lines are open for patients with urgent symptoms related to their diseases.
h) Please minimize all unnecessary travel and practice social distancing.

We value the relationships that we have developed with all of our patients, and we appreciate your trust in our ability to partner with you in your ongoing healthcare management. Together we will work closely to meet any challenges along our mutual journey.

For up-to-date general information about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), please visit the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

For arthritis-related coronavirus information provided by the Arthritis Foundation, please visit:
https://tinyurl.com/AFCoronaVirusInfo


Arizona Arthritis & Rheumatology Associated (AARA) and Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What happens if I cancel an appointment at the last minute due to respiratory illness
symptoms?

A: There will be no penalties for cancellations and missed appointments related to respiratory illnesses until further notice. Please be sure you call the office to cancel so your appointment time can be used by someone else.

Q: How do you know if other patients have it? I don’t want to be exposed to the virus.

A: At the time of scheduling and any reminder calls we are asking all patients to cancel their appointment if they have signs of illness and if they have traveled recently. Patients who exhibit the criteria will not be scheduled until they are the past the two-week incubation period.

Q: What steps are you taking to make sure the clinic is germ free?

A: We always have patient safety in mind and disinfect all surfaces on a regular basis, regardless of the coronavirus outbreak. All staff wash their hands with soap and water regularly and use hand sanitizer in between treating patients. This is being reinforced daily. Our staff wears gloves during specific procedures, such as trigger point dry needling. We request that all patients and staff wash their hands frequently, refrain from touching their face, and use hand sanitizer between patients.

We are taking all cleaning and hygiene precautions recommended by the CDC.

Q: If I have a cough can I come in for my appointment?

A: If you have fever or respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath and have either traveled in the past 14 days or had close contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have coronavirus, please consult with your primary healthcare provider prior to scheduling or attending an appointment. If you are experiencing any sickness, please wait to schedule an appointment until you are fever-free, without the use of fever reducing medication or other symptom reducing medication for 24 hours.

Q: What if I traveled outside of the country lately – can I still come in for my appointment?

A: If you have traveled to a country with a COVID-19 outbreak, please wait until 14 days after you have potentially been exposed to the virus to schedule an appointment.

Additional information is available on the AARA and CDC websites.
Your health, safety and well-being are our greatest concern.
Please let us know if you have additional questions.