Valley urgent cares seeing '2020-esque' COVID situation
One day after Ohio saw its highest number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, urgent care facilities are explaining their current struggle.
Large numbers of people are scrambling to be tested for the virus while others risk missing work to battle their symptoms at home. With at-home tests running out quickly, the public is flooding these urgent care facilities to get test results or be treated.
Dr. Lena Esmail is the CEO of QuickMED Urgent Care. She says the current rise in COVID-19 cases and the rotating door of patients coming in feels awfully familiar.
"It's very 2020-esque," she said. "It's because of this newer strain that is more contagious."
The Omicron variant has taken over control of cases by storm, with the CDC estimating that it makes up 95% of infections in the United States. Despite that rate, Dr. Esmail said that data points towards it being less harmful.
"We believe most of the patients we see have Omicron," she said. "They are less sickly and usually have upper respiratory issues that can be treated. Those people go to urgent care's. Meanwhile, hospitals are seeing what we believe to be the Delta variant, people go in with shortness of breath and need more attention."
Dr. James Kravec, the Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Health backed that claim on Monday, saying hospitals are seeing "a lot of Delta."
Even though Omicron seems to be less harmful overall, Dr. Esmail said large numbers of people are still looking for treatment at her facilities.
"Our largest locations are seeing about 350 patients a day and smaller ones still get 100 people coming in," she said.
Behind the scenes of every health facility are tired and winded healthcare workers. Dr. Esmail said QuickMED Urgent Care has upped its working staff by 400% to help relieve that pain.
"Morale becomes a challenge testing patients outside in this weather," she admitted. "But we rotate our staff throughout the day so people can treat other patients."
That statement created another issue for Dr. Esmail: other patients.
Across the nation, doctors are encouraging people to delay non-urgent surgeries, and wait times for non-COVID-related matters stretch for hours. Yet the fatigued health care workers do their best to treat them in a timely manner.
"We have brought traveling nurses onto our staff just for this very issues," Dr. Esmail said. "A much lower percentage of heart attacks were reported since the pandemic began. That tells me patients are staying home.
She has a clear message for those folks who feel tempted to stay at home during a health emergency—don't.
"If you have an ailment of any kind, then it falls on your judgment," she said. "But if you would historically get treatment for that ailment or any illness, you should do it in this situation too."
The number of people being treated for COVID-19 right now is shattering records around the globe. Dr. Esmail thinks that this is another difficult wave, but brighter days with shorter wait times are right around the corner.
"We have been able to adapt to this virus through vaccines and recovered patients with infections plus the emerging treatments and age groups who can receive them," she assured. "I think COVID is something we are adapting to like influenza. Variants will emerge but if people follow practices encouraged by health professionals, it will be better on the other side. We need to listen to the CDC, we need to listen to people's experiences, and we need to take care of ourselves and others."
The Valley's top health professionals agree that what is happening today is prolonging the current crisis, but also stress that they want to help as many people with as many issues as possible.
"We want to help everyone for every reason," Dr. Esmail said. "It's a struggle now, but we are trying and we will continue to do so."