Coronavirus Tests The Capacity Of Urgent Care Centers
By Tina Traster
Graig Staus, owner and nurse practitioner at Rockland Urgent Care in West Haverstraw, says patient visits over the past couple of weeks have tripled, while less than two dozen mostly middle-aged people have been tested for coronavirus at off-site labs.
To date, none have tested positive.
Urgent care centers have redirected many sick people away from hospital emergency rooms over the last decade, and are the go-to for people who are sick or worried about becoming ill with coronavirus.
“A lot of people are worried and they’re coming to get tested, but a majority of patients are not tested,” said Straus.
The criteria for being tested for COVID-19, as the virus is known is direct exposure to someone who’s tested positive or you are elderly and have an underlying medical condition that requires hospitalization or inpatient evaluation, or you’ve been sick and tested negative for the flu and for an expanded respiratory panel.
Most of those who’ve been tested at Rockland Urgent Care fall between 30 and 60 years old, with underlying conditions.
Urgent care centers do not have the coronavirus testing kits. Swabbed cultures are sent to labs, which take a couple of days to reveal results.
Urgent care centers are on the front lines of the response to the coronavirus, whether they’re ready or not. Services offered by the centers typically don’t extend to highly infections conditions like tuberculosis and measles that require higher levels of protective gear and rooms to handle infections but that’s not stopping people from turning up.
Over the past two decades, urgent care centers have been catching on as Americans increasingly seek convenient ways to get healthcare. As of 2018, there were more than 8,700 urgent care locations around the US and about a dozen in the county.
Urgent care centers are following CDC guidelines but the role each plays may depend on whether a center is affiliated with a larger health system and whether it has emergency preparedness planning.
Urgent care centers don’t generally have access to tests for COVID-19, and they’re grappling with ways to handle the influx of patients worried they might be infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says doctors should use a higher level of protection for coronavirus than they’d use for a patient with the flu.
The Urgent Care Association, the industry’s trade group, partnered with Solv to provide free video telemedicine services and a COVID-19 assessment bot designed to help urgent care providers offer more care virtually.
Good Sam Opening Drive-Through For Testing
Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern is setting up a drive-through coronavirus testing facility today, which is by appointment only and needs a doctor’s referrel.
Second Rockland Death From Coronavirus
A second person has died in Rockland County from the new coronavirus, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said Tuesday. Also they announced a fourth location where people were exposed to a contagious person on the county website.
The dead person was 60 and had other health problems, county officials said. The first death was of a Suffern resident, 64, also with other health problems.
In all, 12 New Yorkers have died and the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus grew to 1,374 cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning. Rockland County confirmed 31 cases of the virus.
Nationwide has 4,661 confirmed cases and 85 deaths. Worldwide, there have been 185,067 cases with 7,330 deaths.
Practitioners like Straus are following the advice of the CDC, as well as the Rockland County Health Department. ADDD
Patients who do not meet testing criteria but who are experiencing symptoms are told to self-quarantine for two weeks. There is no vaccine or cure for the highly-contagious and fast-spreading virus.
At CityMD in Nanuet, a practitioner said “We’ve been experiencing an uptick in patients. People are scared. We’re trying to calm them down.”
New York-based urgent care operator CityMD on Friday told patients experiencing mild cold/flu symptoms not to come in for a coronavirus test.
“Currently, widespread testing is unavailable and may even be counterproductive, because the demand for testing will overwhelm our ability to care for the sickest, most vulnerable patients,” the company said on its website.
Straus, however, says his clinic, which has five doctors, is not completely overwhelmed.
“It’s like the peak of flu season, which normally by now would be over,” he said.