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Health experts recommending more telemedicine appointments during the pandemic

Experts are warning the community that now is not the time for a trip to your local doctor's office, unless it's an emergency.

NUECES COUNTY, Texas — The number of hospitalizations in Nueces County has caused a shortage in staff and even supplies at hospitals and clinics. Experts are warning the community that now is not the time for a trip to your local doctor's office, unless it's an emergency.

Before the COVID-19 tsunami hit the Coastal Bend, local health officials said the COVID-19 phone bank hotline was already brewing and ready to serve.

"We really opened up those phone banks early in March because we knew there was a need and that's what the public health is there for," Health Director Annette Rodriguez said. "We try to meet that need."

Rodriguez said even with a forecast of what to expect, there's no way to prepare for a flood in thousands of calls at a time.

"As the peak of when we had the most calls coming in, we had 45 people on the phones," Rodriguez said. "I think it was actually June, with 12,000 calls and that's just calls to the phone bank."

Local health experts want to remind the community to call your physician before you go. 

"There are other resources available so that the visit or exam is a little more comprehensive even though there is no actual physical contact," Maris Perkins Director of Telemedicine at Driscoll Children's Hospital said. 

Perkins said they even use telemedicine to treat patients already inside the hospital to limit exposure.

"We have placed telemedicine carts in our isolation rooms and so that minimizes exposure to our doctors and nurses keeping them from having to enter the room every single time," Perkins said. 

Dr. James Wantuck with Plushcare -- a virtual primary care service -- said telemedicine isn't only for people experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms.

"You can get high quality care from a physician, but you can do it all from home," Wantuck said.

Telemedicine can potentially keep you and your family from exposure to COVID. 

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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