The president of the Tennessee Academy of Physicians says staying at home is the “best weapon we have to reduce the impact” of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We are all safer at home,” Dr. Jerry P. Wilson said in a recent statement.

If Tennesseans do have to leave their homes for essential items, such as groceries and medications, Wilson said those trips should be “focused and brief.”

And if residents need non-emergency medical attention, he suggests they seek one of the many “tele-health” options that doctors now offer that require no physical contact.

Dr. James D. Holt, a physician at East Tennessee State University Family Medicine in Johnson City, said doctors are trying to keep both patients and their staffs safe during the pandemic. To do so, they are turning to new technology that allows family health care providers to offer certain exams and other services remotely.

“I think we are fairly typical of most family practices,” Holt said Monday. “We have are calling patients to check on their conditions and refilling medications. Our goal is to keep them out of the clinic.”

He said this is particularly true for at-risk patients with such conditions as diabetes, asthma and chronic lung and heart disease, which makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Holt said while traditional office visits are being rescheduled, new tele-health technology — which ETSU has developed to be Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliant — allows health care providers to still monitor their patients.

Holt said ETSU Family is also currently screening patients for COVID-19 at the clinic’s back door. The medical staff is wearing protective gear, and there is a buffer zone to prevent possible transmission to the rest of the facility.

Family medical practices across the nation are seeing financial tough times, Holt said, as a result of rescheduling office visits.  He said the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package approved by Congress last month does not specifically cover medical practices, although some may qualify under provisions covering small businesses.

Holt said he is hopeful Congress will address this issue soon.

In the meantime, some family practices are having to lay off employees while still providing care.

“They are still operating, but they are very short-handed,” Holt said.