Coronavirus symptoms? Why you should not go to urgent care

A doctor who owns an urgent care center in Maryland’s Montgomery County said you should not go to a center like his if you have some symptoms of the coronavirus but are not sure if you really have it.

Emergency physician Dr. Pascal Crosley, who owns Quality First Urgent Care in Burtonsville said if you have symptoms, such as fever and shortness of breath, but you’re not feeling too bad, you should stay home and call a health care provider for guidance.

“You should sort of self-quarantine, and wait for some medical advice,” Crosley said.

“Isolation is what’s going to help flatten the curve of the disease process.”

But if your symptoms have you very sick, and you’ve recently visited a country where the disease is more widespread such as mainland China, Iran, South Korea or Italy, you should put on a face mask and go to an emergency room, he said.

Hospitals have negative pressure rooms, where people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can be safely kept separate from other patients. Many urgent care clinics don’t have those facilities.

“Most urgent cares, that I’m aware of, including mine, we don’t have that capacity,” Crosley said. “We would have to refer you to an emergency room to further take care of you, if you pass the screen (for coronavirus).”

Currently, the vast majority of people in the D.C. area with flu or common cold-like symptoms do not fit the profile of a suspected coronavirus case — also called a “patient under investigation” — because they have not recently visited a country of concern.

“The one good thing about it is, in this area — in the DMV — there haven’t been any documented infections,” Crosley said, though he anticipates that could change in the near future.

Crosley and other health care professionals urge healthy people not to buy face masks. He said panic buying will worsen shortages and make them more difficult to get for clinicians who need them.

Meanwhile, many more people have come down with the flu in the U.S. in recent months, and for the moment it remains widespread across most of the country.

Crosley said there was a spike in flu cases about a month ago and another spike may be coming. He recommends getting a flu shot if you haven’t already. In a more severe virus outbreak, the health care system’s capacity might be tested — and resistance to the flu could go a long way to taking pressure off hospitals and clinics.

More coronavirus coverage

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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