PHILADELPHIA -- Hospitals are resuming non-urgent procedures, and doctor's offices are reopening as the peak of the coronavirus pandemic appears to be passing in the Philadelphia-area.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has authorized providers to reopen so long as they have sufficient protective equipment, staff, and capacity to treat both patients who are positive for COVID-19 and those who are not.
Here's what you need to know about going back to the doctor.
Without a vaccine for COVID-19, there is a risk of exposure anywhere you go -- including the doctor's office. But hospitals and doctor's offices are taking extra steps to reduce that possibility (more on those steps below).
It is important to weigh the risk of contracting the virus with the risk of other health conditions worsening by not seeking medical treatment. Talk to your doctor about your medical concerns, and together you can decide whether an in-person visit is a good idea or whether you may be a good candidate for a video or telephone visit.
"Don't be reluctant to return if you haven't been there in a while," said Lawrence John, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and a family physician in Pittsburgh. "Continuity of care is important, especially for a chronic condition like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease."
You can limit your risk of contracting the virus by practicing social distancing, wearing a face mask, and using hand sanitizer liberally, especially after handling high-touch surfaces like doors, elevator buttons, and shared office objects, such as a clipboard and pen.
Hospitals treating COVID-19 patients have designated care units for those patients, often with dedicated entrances, to ensure they do not come into contact with patients at the hospital for other reasons. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff in direct contact with COVID-19 patients do not cross back and forth between coronavirus units and non-coronavirus units.
Doctor's offices are limiting the number of people in the office at one time by spreading out appointments, asking patients to wait outside or in their car after checking in, spreading out waiting room chairs, and removing their troves of communal waiting room magazines.
Both hospitals and medical offices have stepped up cleaning and disinfecting routines, are requiring patients to come alone, and are screening everyone who walks in the door for COVID-19 symptoms.