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Veterans fearing they have coronavirus can call toll-free number

New screening procedures because of the virus also mean patients should arrive 20 minutes early for appointments.

Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Tampa Bay area. For the latest news on the outbreak, go to our coronavirus page, which we are updating regularly. You also can sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to have the day’s news sent right to your inbox each morning for free.

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Veterans health officials are encouraging veterans who believe they’ve come down with the coronavirus to call a toll-free number for a preliminary diagnosis and to prepare for a trip to a medical center or clinic.

The number is 1-877-741-3400.

“The safest place for you, unless you may require hospitalization, is home,” according to a news release from the Pinellas-based Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. The phone number also is being promoted on the website of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

Calling the number first will help limit the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses, according to the news release. Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

In addition, patients may be inconvenienced by new screening protocols in place at health centers and clinics because of the coronavirus. The goal is to quickly identify individuals who have these symptoms and direct them to a location for further triage and treatment, according to the news release.

Patients were advised to arrive for appointments at least 20 minutes early to allow time for the screening.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

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