The COVID-19 outbreak is constantly changing, and Tricare is working to keep patients and staff safe. COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory virus. This new virus is concerning because there is no vaccine or any specific medications that can treat the virus at this time. While most people who become infected will have a mild case, or may not even have symptoms, it is possible to become severely ill and require hospitalization.
COVID-19 spreads from person to person, usually among people who are six feet or less from each other. It can also spread through droplets from infected people when they sneeze or cough. Although it is more rare, the virus can also spread by respiratory droplets that land on surfaces and are picked up by others.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary, but the most common are:
- Shortness of breath
While it is possible for the virus to spread before symptoms appear, people are most contagious when they feel sick; for this reason, those who are experiencing any of the above symptoms should stay at home as much as possible, unless they need emergency medical care.
How can the spread of COVID-19 be prevented?
There are several ways to prevent the spread of illness:
- Wash your hands: this is the most effective way to prevent infection and to prevent the spread of most viruses. Wash hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, and coming into contact with surfaces such as door handles. If soap is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is also effective.
- Practice good hygiene habits: cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) whenever you sneeze or cough. Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth as much as possible. Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are used often like countertops, door handles, phones, and other frequently used objects. Avoid coming into close contact with those who are sick. Get all recommended vaccines including the flu shot.
- Stay at home as much as possible: if you need to go out, stay at least six feet away from others. If you have any symptoms, stay at home.
What to do if you get sick
In order to provide safe and effective service to patients, the Defense Health Agency is recommending all Tricare beneficiaries call the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-874-2273, Option 1 to speak with a nurse before seeking any treatment for a potential COVID-19 infection. This is being done in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, and to determine who needs to be tested. Currently, military treatment facilities are only testing patients who are showing symptoms, as well as those who have either traveled to a country that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as an area where the virus is widespread, or those who have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.
The Military Health System Nurse Advice Line is available 24/7, but wait times have increased during the pandemic. Nurses can make appointments for Tricare Prime beneficiaries at most military clinics or hospitals, and can also advise patients on whether or not they should seek medical care. For those who are suspected to have COVID-19, a nurse can set up a virtual visit for patients who are usually seen at a military treatment facility to determine whether or not they should call 911 or visit the emergency room. Patients who do not use a military hospital or clinic should call their providers directly for assistance.
Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, has been in close contact with someone who has the virus, or has traveled to an area with widespread disease should stay at home and speak with a Military Health System nurse, who can assess symptoms. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms should not make an appointment or visit their military clinic or hospital without first being screened by a nurse, in order to prevent further spread of infection.
What are military bases doing to help?
During the pandemic, military bases are working to ensure service members and their families are healthy and safe. Reynolds Army Health Clinic at Fort Sill, OK is working to screen patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The clinic is still open, but encourages all patients to practice social distancing and follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The clinic has set up a Coronavirus Help Line, and Fort Sill has restricted all travel to 60 miles or less; those who travel further than 60 miles must self-quarantine once they return to Fort Sill.
Additionally, many military museums have temporarily closed, military academies have dismissed students for the time being, and families are prohibited from attending graduations for boot camp and basic training. More information about additional measures the military is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be found here.
- Telemedicine: Some Tricare providers may offer telemedicine as an alternative to an in-person appointment. Tricare will cover telemedicine services that are deemed medically necessary
- Travel: The Department of Defense has restricted all domestic travel for service members, DoD civilians, and family members within the United States. This restriction includes Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty. Additionally, service members will only be authorized for local leave. Travel is authorized for patients and medical providers for the purpose of medical treatment. This guidance is effective through May 11, 2020.
- Commissary services: Commissaries have been granted authority to manage inventory in order to best serve military members and families. Commissaries are able to place restrictions on the number of high-demand products that customers can purchase.
- Medications: Tricare Pharmacy Home Delivery offers 90 day supplies of many medications. These can be obtained at no cost through military pharmacies, or for a small cost for home delivery.
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 website for frequently updated information on the pandemic.
Heather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.
|Tracking Coronavirus COVID-19 Response||State Veteran’s Benefits|
|The Military Health System Advice Line||Coronavirus Information & Resources|
|TRICARE Supplemental Insurance||Veterans Health A to Z|