Urgent cares see increase in patients, longer wait times during increase in COVID cases


ST. LOUIS – As COVID cases are rising again in the St. Louis Metro Area, urgent cares are also experiencing a surge in patients. 

With more cases, comes the need for more testing. SSM Health and Total Access Urgent Cares said they are performing a significantly more amount of COVID tests than they were performing in May and June when cases were lower than they are now. 

“We have seen a big jump in our sick visit volume, which has been causing some prolonged wait times in the urgent cares and we have seen an increase in testing and an increase in the positivity rate for COVID tests as well,” Lauren Knight, director, SSM Retail and Virtual Health, said.

Knight said their system completed about 100 tests each week in late May and early June. She said just until Wednesday, “the urgent cares have completed more tests in the past three days than we would have in an entire week.”

She said tests and PPE supplies are okay, but wonders if the healthcare system could become strained again.

Dr. Troy Dinkel, president and chief medical officer of Total Access Urgent Care, said TAUC facilities are also noticeably busier and are performing more than double the amount of COVID tests they were performing in the springtime. 

“At the end of June we were averaging 533 tests a day,” he said. “For the last week, we’ve been averaging well over 1100, and yesterday we did over 1200 tests, so this is not a small increase,” Dr. Dinkel said.

Dr. Dinkel said they are in need of more healthcare professionals to care for patients and are actively hiring to fill open positions.

Dr. Dinkel said more testing sites in the region would decrease the bottleneck testing sites are seeing, but he said sometimes patients need more care than just a test, which is what an urgent care offers, as opposed to a drive-thru testing site. 

“Part of the reason we are busier is just that when these things spike, the entire system is undoubtedly overwhelmed that would help, those testing sites would absolutely help with a lot of this testing,” he said.

St. Louis city and county said as of now they don’t have plans to implement more mass testing sites.

“We currently operate testing locations that can serve a large population. We have not yet discussed larger testing sites but we will look into regional volume and see if there can be an increase in testing opportunities available,” a St. Louis County Public Health Department spokesperson said.

“We test every weekday at John C Murphy (North clinic) and South County Clinic.”

Both providers said their tests don’t identify which strand of the coronavirus the patient has.

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