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Urgent care as an industry is in a precarious position as the COVID-19 pandemic surge rages on. Driven by the most transmissible variant to date, multiple states and major cities are grappling with their largest caseloads yet. Overcrowding in emergency rooms is so bad that hospital administrators and public health officials from Philadelphia to Iowa are recommending that patients stay away from the ED if at all possible and opt to visit their closest urgent care center instead. While that nod would typically be perceived as good news, at the moment many urgent care centers are also having a hard time keeping up with demand thanks to both COVID-driven volume and staff shortages. This is all compounded by the fact that many urgent care workers are unable to report for work because of their own SARS-CoV-2 infections, as Urgent Care Association CEO Lou Ellen Horwitz noted in a recent article published by The Wall Street Journal. “The volume of patients is not driving the closures,” she told the paper. “Staff are sick and have to stay home; that’s the blow we can’t absorb.” This underscores the importance of self-care and of ensuring that your urgent care centers have policies designed to reduce risk in place. Ensure that everyone on your team is vaccinated and encourage (or mandate) that masks are worn throughout the day, and encourage patients to follow suit in your office and out in the world.

Health Officials Are Looking to Urgent Care to Bail Out Saturated EDs. Can You?