Is there a risk of catching Covid from a visit to a clinic?

This is believed to be a concern for 80% of the US population. However, the actual risk of contracting Covid from a typical doctor’s office or clinic is exceedingly low.

The reason is because of the precautions taken to lessen that risk and because of the general low likelihood of catching Covid from brief encounters. According to the CDC, an “exposure” to Coronavirus is defined as being inside of 6 feet from a person with active Covid-19 for more than 15 minutes, with neither person wearing a mask. Of course, this situation wont’ be encountered during your average doctor’s visit, since everyone will be wearing a mask and most of the interactions at a distance of less than 6 feet will be for a lot less than 15 minutes.

Let’s look at some of the more important precautions taken here at Village Health Family and Urgent Care. Patients are screened prior to entering the facility for any signs of upper respiratory or other infections. If the phone screening suggests caution is advised, the patient will be directed by phone to do a “curbside” visit via the parking lot at the back of our clinic.

Patient’s who do come inside the building must wear a mask to protect other patients. The staff will be wearing a mask along with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as indicated. As you might expect, our staff are trained in thorough handwashing after every encounter with a patient. And, of course, procedures that might produce “aerosolization” of Coronavirus, such as breathing treatments, are avoided in patients with any signs or symptoms of Covid. Regardless of the patient’s condition, the room they occupied and chairs or exam tables they sat on are disinfected, as per current protocols. So, even if a patient was here for a sprained ankle, his room will be disinfected according to the Centers for Disease Control’s currently recommended Covid-19 disinfection protocol.

In addition, Village Health practices 6 feet distancing in our waiting room and switches to a “parking lot waiting room” in the unlikely event of overflow. Another reason for the very low risk of contracting Covid during a visit is that, due to public fear of the disease, our patient volume has been very low for the past year (excepting a few spikes in new cases). Thus, for the foreseeable future, one is less likely to encounter another patient during their visit at Village Health, much less, one with infectious symptoms.

The dangers of coming in and contracting Covid are exceedingly low. But what about the dangers of staying away, when you have a condition that requires prompt medical treatment? We have had patients with acute, life-threatening conditions who failed to visit us for fear of getting Covid. Even though failure to treat their condition was an immediate and high risk to their health, while the risk of contracting Covid was very low, they stayed away!

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common phenomenon in the current climate of fear, which is worsened by media hype and public health education that skews toward the sensational and tends to downplay the evidence pointing to a lesser risk of death from the disease than is widely perceived — especially in young healthy persons. As noted above, this skewed perception can have dire consequences when it causes patients to avoid seeking medical care for serious, non-Covid conditions, due to their unfounded fears of contracting Covid-19 in a medical office or clinic.

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