MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Usually, the wait time at an urgent care in Montgomery can be as short as five minutes, but as COVID-19 infections continue to increase, the wait time for some can be as long as six hours.
Dr. Dixie Kidd, a family medicine specialist with the American Family Care clinic at The Shoppes at EastChase, said a COVID-19 spike brought on by the holidays is sending their clinic into overdrive.
“Over the past few weeks, we have been inundated with patients,” Kidd said. “It started with Thanksgiving, but now with Christmas, New Years’, and all the kids coming home from college, we’ve got lots and lots of patients.”
Kidd said the drastic increase in patients happened in just a week.
“We really went from 50 to 60 (patients) one day to 100 to 150 the next day,” Kidd said.
With so many patients needing to be tested for the virus, wait times are a lot longer than usual. The clinic is asking their patients to be patient.
“Sometimes, there is an hour or two wait,” Kidd said. “We are doing the best we can.”
The story is much the same at Your Doctors Office off of Vaughn Road in Montgomery.
Nurse Practitioner Jenny Browning said their clinic is seeing their highest number of COVID-19 patients so far. Sometimes seeing over 100 patients in a single day. This is a stark difference from their usual 30 to 40 patients a day.
“We’re seeing about 100 to 120 patients trying to get tested for COVID just on our urgent care side. We have our primary side too,” Browning said. “From Thanksgiving until even now, you can see our parking lots are full. We have long wait times, we’re doing our best.”
Browning said sometimes wait times can be up to six hours long. The reason is that a COVID-19 test can take up to 30 minutes to get results, and with so many people needing both COVID and flu tests, wait times can be expected.
“One morning we got here, we had about 28 people lined up out front, just to sign up,” Browning said.
The influx of patients is exhausting urgent care staff too.
“In the Montgomery area, nurses, technicians, all kinds of people have left to take travel jobs, so we are just left here trying to make it and see as many people as we can in a decent time,” Browning said.
Meanwhile, every urgent care employee is trying to avoid getting the virus themselves. Kidd was, unfortunately, one of the unlucky ones who became infected.
“I was actually in the hospital with COVID and put on oxygen, and I’ve since recovered,” Kidd said.
Urgent care employees urge the community to continue to wear masks, socially distance and wash hands. They said even though the vaccine is on the horizon, the infection is still here.
“Everybody has to stay vigilant,” Kidd said. “The virus is as bad as ever, maybe even worse.”
“Wear a mask everywhere you go, try to do the pickup for groceries, anything you can do to prevent contact,” Browning said.
Doctors said a busy urgent care should not deter you from getting tested for the flu or COVID-19. They said the worst thing you can do is assume you are fine and wait to seek treatment before it is too late.
As of Friday morning, the Alabama Department of Public Health reports more than five-thousand new cases of COVID-19. That’s the second-largest spike the state has seen in two weeks. This brings the case total to more than 389,000.
Deaths have now passed the five-thousand mark. Hospitalizations are down to 3,015, still far higher than the summer peak.