Newark Urgent Care Center has set up an outdoor triage station in an attempt to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our concern was we were bringing ill patients, potentially with COVID-19, into our unit, potentially exposing other patients and staff,” said Dr. Jack Horowitz, medical director for the Main Street facility, which for many years was known as Newark Emergency Room.
Under the new system, every patient will be screened inside a tent. Staff members in full protective gear – including gloves, masks and gowns – will take patients’ temperatures and ask them questions about potential exposure to COVID-19.
Patients who are ill will be treated outside, while those with other ailments, such as a cut or a sprain, will be sent inside for treatment. The goal is that no one who has COVID-19 symptoms will enter the building, Horowitz said.
The triage tent is staffed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
Horowitz said his best advice for people with minor COVID-19 symptoms is to stay home.
“The trigger to come in is shortness of breath,” he said, adding that patients struggling to breathe should go straight to a hospital.
Meanwhile, Newark Urgent Care Center remains ready to treat people with non-coronavirus ailments, thus allowing them to avoid crowded hospital emergency rooms.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, Newark Urgent Care has seen its number of patients decrease, something other urgent care centers have reported as well, Horowitz said.
“It’s bottomed out. People are frightened to leave the house,” he said, adding the facility has seen an increase in phone calls from people seeking advice.
Early on, after President Donald Trump and other federal officials said that anyone who wanted to be tested could be tested, the center saw an influx of people seeking tests for COVID-19, Horowitz said. However, at that time, tests were not available in large enough numbers.
“That backfired. Everybody came in here saying, ‘I want a test,’” Horowitz said. “The intent was to decrease fear, but it created misinformation and potential exposure.”
Now, Newark Urgent Care Center has a limited number of tests and can also write prescriptions for patients to get tested at facilities set up by ChristianaCare. The center has given or prescribed approximately 75 COVID-19 tests, with no positive results so far. Twelve tests have come back negative, but the rest are still pending.