If You See This at a Doctor's Office, Don't Go Inside

These red flags are surefire signs it's time to head for the door.

COVID vaccines are being administered at a breakneck pace throughout the U.S., with 105 million U.S. residents now fully vaccinated, and 147 million U.S. residents having received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the number of vaccinated individuals rising, many people are feeling more comfortable resuming activities that once felt somewhat perilous, like seeing a doctor for non-urgent medical care.

However, experts say that those trips still aren't completely without risk, especially for those who aren't yet two weeks out from the second dose of their Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks from their single Johnson & Johnson shot. In fact, there are certain simple ways to help determine whether or not a trip to your local medical office is going to be a safe one. Read on to discover the signs you still shouldn't set foot into a doctor's office, according to a doctor. And if you want to protect yourself, check out The Riskiest Things You're Doing After You're Vaccinated, CDC Says.

1
Unmasked patients or staff

unmasked doctor and nurse talking to male patient at reception desk
Shutterstock / Tyler Olson

While being fully vaccinated may be a relief, it's not a free pass to stop wearing your mask in indoor spaces. In fact, according to Martin Jugenburg, MD, seeing either patients or staff who aren't wearing masks in your doctor's office is the number one sign you shouldn't go in.

"At a typical health care facility or doctor's office, patients are showing up when they're sick. This will obviously lead to the spread of germs, especially when masks are not required by all who enter," says Jugenburg.

The CDC also recommends that anyone visiting a doctor's office should be wearing a face mask and should avoid touching their eyes, mouth, and nose throughout the duration of their visit; the agency also notes that it may be prudent for medical staff to provide masks to patients or guests who arrive without one. And for the latest health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

2
People arriving with more than one companion

parents and young male child talking to doctor while all wearing masks amid covid pandemic
Shutterstock / SeventyFour

To limit the spread of COVID, many medical practices have been requesting that patients bring just one companion with them for their visit during the pandemic. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA)'s most recent guidance for practitioners still recommends that medical professionals retain their one guest policies for appointments.

That means that if you see folks showing up with hordes of family members or friends for their visit, you might want to reschedule. "Whenever possible, clinics should be limiting the amount of people inside their office," says Jugenburg. And for more signs everyday spots pose a risk, If Your Grocery Store Doesn't Have This, Don't Go Inside, CDC Says.

3
A crowded waiting room

young blonde doctor walking through crowded waiting room
Shutterstock / Halfpoint

Similarly, if every chair in a medical office's waiting room is filled, it may be in your best interest to avoid going in. In CDC guidance updated in March, the health authority still recommends that healthcare facilities provide enough room to allow six feet of distance between individuals—and to still avoid having patients do in-person visits unless strictly necessary.

"A great way to avoid all of these risks is to have a virtual doctor's appointment," says Jugenburg, who notes that he's had "great success" doing so with patients amid the pandemic. And for more red flags to look out for at another common spot, The CDC Says If You See This at a Restaurant, Don't Go Inside.

4
No evidence of regular cleaning

person wearing her latex surgical gloves at home before the cleaning process
iStock

While the CDC has recently amended its guidance regarding home cleaning amid COVID, announcing that it's only necessary to disinfect household surfaces if you've had someone with COVID in your home in the past 24 hours, the same doesn't hold true for doctor's offices.

"Another major red flag is a clinic that does not regularly clean or disinfect their waiting rooms," says Jugenburg. "Waiting rooms should be wiped down after every new patient that enters."

According to the CDC, once-daily cleaning is only sufficient in public settings in which there are no individuals with either confirmed or suspected cases of COVID in a given space. In spaces that have hosted either sick individuals or those with COVID, like doctor's offices, the health authority recommends both regular cleaning and disinfecting. And for more on where you shouldn't go at the moment, The CDC Says These Are the "Least Safe" Places You're Going Right Now.

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