If you're sick, but it's not coronavirus, where do you go if you need medical attention? And should you go at all?
These are the questions a Twin Cities urgent care network is hoping to address with what it's calling "clean sites."
The Urgency Room, which operates three clinics around the metro, has announced that it's turned two of those clinics into clean sites, which will exclusively serve patients "for sickness and injuries that are NOT related to COVID-19," a news release says.
Those clinics, located in Eagan and Vadnais Heights, "are not treating patients presenting with respiratory symptoms and concerns," the release says.
Patience with such symptoms or suspected COVID-19 can still be seen at the network's Woodbury site.
The Urgency Room says it made the move due to "confusion and fear about 'going to the doctor'" amongst patients who don't want to expose themselves to the coronavirus.
Doctors at Urgency Room clinics have been noticing a "trend" of patients "waiting too long to treat serious and, in some cases, life threatening conditions because they’re afraid of being exposed to the Coronavirus."
The release notes a few examples of people avoiding care for this reason, including one case where a diabetic patient waited too long to seek care for a leg infection; by the time she finally sought help, she required a hospitalization that "could likely have been avoided."
What are the rules for non-COVID medical treatment during the pandemic?
According to WebMD, official guidelines say "doctors and clinics should prioritize urgent and emergency visits now," with the website noting that many doctors and healthcare professionals are cancelling or postponing routine visits and procedures.
The CDC says that many such non-critical visits are now being conducted by phone or telemedicine, and recommends staying home unless you are suffering from severe symptoms.
CNN adds that primary care visits are now "a last resort," as "all health care facilities are now high-risk sites for either transmitting or receiving exposure to Covid-19."
In other words, if you're experiencing any medical issues that don't count as an emergency, you may have to wait a while — or reach out to your doctor via telephone or online.
U.S. News & World Report has a guide on how to set up a telehealth appointment.