Rural health clinics prepare for Coronavirus

Merrill, Ore. – While the Coronavirus poses a serious threat to large cities, rural areas aren’t immune to the virus.

Family Nurse Practitioner Michael Sheets operates clinics in Bonanza and Merrill.

He says he has no way to know for certain if he’s seen any patients with Coronavirus.

“The big problem right now is we have no access to laboratory testing in rural areas.”  Explains Sheets.  “It’s all being sent to hospitals.”

While Merrill is a rural area, that doesn’t mean it’s totally isolated.

“We have lots of truck traffic out here.”  Sheets points out.  “For taking potatoes and hay down to the Bay area, and up to Seattle – the trucks run back and forth up I-5.”

There’s still toilet paper on the shelves at Martin’s Food Center.

Owner Martin Hicks says while there’s no panic shopping, he’s still taking preventative measures to keep shoppers healthy.  “We’re sanitizing shopping cart handles and counters on a regular basis, door handles, stuff like that.”

Sheets says he’s worked through plenty of epidemics in his 39 years of practice, and he sees no reason to panic now – even if this situation is different.

“We take care of people.”  Sheets notes of his open door policy.  “We stay here, we don’t leave, we don’t do appointments – the door’s always open.”

Sheets say he hopes to have Coronavirus testing equipment available next week at his clinics in Merrill, and Bonanza.

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