Health officials offer advice
Extended operational hours at Medical Arts Clincic are being suspended but local healthcare officials are continuing to welcome and serve patients.
That was part of the message delivered Friday by representatives of the Dawson County Hospital District.
Local medical professionals are “your front line servants,” Chief Executive Officer Letha Stokes said in a community briefing with other local leaders here Friday afternoon.
“We have no doubt we’re going to get through this together.” Staff at the hospital and clinic are available to see patients for everything from usual illnesses or accidents to those who may be concerned they have COVID-19.
She said everyone, however, should contact the clinic to make an appointment in advance.
“Our goal at Medical Arts Hospital is to prevent the spread of this infection while remembering there are other medical needs...” Stokes said.
Anyone who expresses concern that they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 – a fever over 100.4 degrees, shortness of breath, and coughing – will be seen outside the clinic at their cars.
Others may request to be seen at their cars as well, or consult with a physician by telephone or teleconference, if they do not want to personally come into the clinic.
Health officials noted that just because someone may be exhibiting some of the symptoms of COVID-19 doesn’t mean they have the virus.
Those same symptoms could also indicate someone has strep, flu or some other illness.
“Just stay calm,” said Monte Blackburn, Medical Arts Clinic director. “If you’re exhibiting symptoms, contact the hospital or clinic.”
Testing for COVID-19 will only be done, however, if the patient meets established national protocols and approve for the testing is granted by state and federal health officials.
As the spread of the virus is escalating, it is now taking anywhere from two to seven days to get the results back from designated laboratories.
Blackburn also said people who have been around those who have the virus shouldn’t think they will automatically contract it as well.
“Just because you’re in contact with someone doesn’t mean you’re going to get sick,” he said. “Just watch yourself.”
Such people do, however, have a higher risk of getting the virus.
Stokes announced Friday that Medical Arts Clinic is immediately suspending its evening walk-in operation.
She said the clinic recently has been overwhelmed with patients during that 5-8 p.m. time period and that doctors are working extended hours to see the patients who have made appointments.
“We’ll close it until this all settles down a bit and then we’ll re-open it,” Stokes said.
Both Stokes and Black burn emphasized social distancing and hand-washing as the best precautions for avoiding COVID-19.
The virus can be spread either through droplets in the air from such things as sneezing or coughing, or from contact with the virus on surfaces such as door knobs or seats.
“If you have the ability to stay at home, then stay at home,” Stokes said. “That’s your safest precaution.”
Regularly washing your hands is almost equally important, Blackburn said.
Blackburn also noted that while staying at home is a good idea, that doesn’t mean everyone has to stay inside the house.
Getting out in the back yard or working in a garden could actually be helpful.
“Let your kids go outside and play,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid to go out in the yard. You don’t need to be cooped up in your the house right now.”
Mayor Josh Stevens also urged everyone to check on their neighbors and assist the elderly during this time.
Similarly, he said everyone should avoid overbuying essential items and preventing others from getting what they need.
“Having a run on toilet paper and essential items is beyond belief,” Stevens said.
‘We have no doubt we’re going to get through this together. Letha Stokes Hospital District CEO