In the face of so much shifting news about COVID-19, our health and the health of our loved ones is what matters most. To stay safe, many of us are taking extra precautions like staying home, washing our hands more frequently and keeping our distance from others when we need to go out.

However, one thing you shouldn’t do is put off important health care. During an outbreak, just as during other times, skipping appointments is risky and can lead to complications.

We know you probably have questions about getting care right now: Is it safe to go to a hospital? Can I get COVID-19 at the doctor’s office? What if I need care for something that isn’t COVID-19?

But you don’t have to delay your health care, and you can still make an appointment with your doctor during the COVID-19 outbreak. As we’ve learned more about the coronavirus and how it spreads, we’ve implemented several new practices to help protect you so you can continue to get safe, top-quality care.

Here are just some of our COVID-19 safety and security measures:

1. Following expert guidance in our hospitals and clinics

Understanding how the disease spreads is one of the best ways to keep ourselves and others safe. Our team of infectious disease experts specializes in preventing and treating illnesses that can spread from person to person. Our specialists are helping guide our work and ensure we’re following the best, most up-to-date safety protocols in all of our locations.

In addition to help from our own experts, we’re following – or exceeding – safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDH) and the Minnesota Board of Dentistry. We’re working closely with these organizations and many others around the country on COVID-19 prevention, screening, testing and treatment. That means that whether you need care for COVID-19 or any other condition, we’re already familiar with the best ways to care for you safely.

2. Treating COVID-19 patients separately from others

When someone has, or is suspected to have, COVID-19, we evaluate and treat them separately from others.

By caring for COVID-19 patients apart from others, we can more easily see and treat patients for conditions that aren’t related to COVID-19. This helps reduce the chance for COVID-19 to spread and makes it safer for everyone to get the health care that’s right for them.

3. Extra cleaning and disinfection protocols

We know that the coronavirus and other germs can live on surfaces people touch. That’s why we’ve added extra surface cleanings, disinfection and safety protocols at all of our locations, in addition to our regular rigorous cleaning standards. This includes doors, lobbies, restrooms, waiting rooms, appointment rooms, furniture, vents, equipment and many more public and private spaces at every facility.

All our team members are doing their part to keep our clinics, specialty centers and hospitals sanitized. Our care sites are well stocked with disinfectants and other cleaning supplies. We’re going above and beyond to make sure every surface, seat, high-touch and high-traffic area is hygienic and ready for you when you come to visit us.

4. Making social distancing easier in our hospitals and clinics

To keep you safe, we’ve modified our waiting rooms and lobbies so patients can stay at least six feet (about two arm lengths) apart. This helps keep everyone safer and healthier. When you check in for your appointment – or if there’s a short wait – new layouts and helpful signage make it easy to know where to go and when. In addition, we’ve begun electronic check-in at some locations to reduce the amount of time spent in public areas.

We’re also limiting visitors in our locations to reduce the number of people in our waiting rooms and lobbies. By having less people in our facilities, there’s less chance for viruses and other germs to circulate. That makes it easier for us to care for those who need it.

5. Wellness screenings at every hospital and clinics entrance

Keeping people with COVID-19 quarantined helps minimize the spread of the illness. To help ensure that no one showing signs of COVID-19 arrives unexpectedly, we’ve set up wellness screenings at the entrances of all our care locations.

Both patients and staff members are screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive. If we notice any symptoms, we isolate the person and help them get the right care with standardized precautions and procedures.

6. Mandatory masks or face coverings

The CDC and our infectious disease experts recommend wearing masks or cloth face coverings to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. All our team members wear masks across all our care facilities.

For your added safety and protection, we also ask that our patients and visitors wear masks or face coverings. If a patient or visitor arrives without a mask or face covering, we’ll provide a disposable one to wear during their visit.

So what can I do to keep myself and others safe?

While we’re taking every precaution to help keep our patients and team members safe, we can’t do it without your assistance. Here are a few, simple things you can do to stop the spread:

Wear a face covering in public (and when you visit the doctor)

Always wear a face covering whenever you’re in public. Also wear a face covering if you visit one of our clinics, specialty centers or hospitals. If you don’t have a mask or face covering, we’ll provide you with one when you see us.

Maintain your social distancing

Staying at least six feet away can help keep you and other people safe and healthy. When you come in for an appointment, we’ll observe social distancing guidelines whenever we don’t need to be in contact with you directly. For many conditions, video visits are another option to get care.

Wash your hands often

Think of everything you touch during the day. You probably touch door handles, pens, railings and many other things you might not even notice. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after you visit the clinic, as well as frequently throughout the day. Hand sanitizer stations are also available for our patients throughout our lobbies and care facilities.

Try not to touch your face

We believe one of the most common ways the coronavirus gets into the body is through hand-to-face contact. When at the clinic or out in public, try to avoid touching your face as much as you can to limit the virus’s spread. We know it’s not easy, but combined with frequent handwashing, it’s one of the most powerful things you can do to help stop the coronavirus in its tracks.

Safety first doesn’t mean care second

Your health is essential. If something’s bothering you – or you have a chronic condition that you manage regularly – it’s important to get the right diagnosis or treatment so you can feel your best. Putting off health care may complicate your condition or make your recovery more difficult.

When it’s time to schedule (or reschedule) an appointment, call your clinic or make an appointment with your doctor. We’ll always guide you to the best care option for your needs, whether that’s a video visit, phone visit or in-person visit. In an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911 or visit your nearest hospital emergency room.

It’s definitely an unusual time. But medical and dental clinics, specialty centers, and hospitals are still safe places to visit, and we’re as dedicated to your personal health as we are to preventing COVID-19 from spreading further. Don’t delay time-sensitive care because of COVID-19 concerns – we’re here to help you with all your health care needs and find the right treatment options for you.

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