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Healthwatch 16: Cold and flu centers

Geisinger has opened dedicated cold and flu centers, both to treat people more efficiently, and to keep possible flu or coronavirus cases away from everyone else.

We've been hearing for weeks now that this upcoming cold and flu season will be unlike any we've seen, with the addition of COVID-19.

Geisinger has opened dedicated cold and flu centers to treat people more efficiently and keep possible flu or coronavirus cases away from everyone else.

Fall and winter are typically rough months for sickness, with the spread of colds and flu. But this year, add COVID-19 to the mix.

Geisinger officials converted some already existing convenient care sites into dedicated cold and flu centers, which they hope will divert people with respiratory symptoms to certain places rather than traditional offices.

"As many people as we can get to the cold and flu centers, we think we can protect the general public a little better from mingling in waiting rooms and hallways and that sort of thing," said Dr. Richard Martin, a family physician at Geisinger's Mt. Pleasant office in Scranton.

Six Geisinger cold and flu centers are now open, five of which are in our viewing area: one each in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Danville, Jersey Shore, and Mount Pocono.

The centers are equipped with rapid-testing capabilities for COVID-19, both strains of influenza, and other respiratory illnesses such as strep.

Getting a test, according to the experts, is the only way to know what you're dealing with.

"With it being cold and flu season, how do you know a mild cough or runny nose is just a cold, versus COVID-19, since these symptoms do correlate closely together? So that's why we're here. We're here to clarify it, let you see a provider that's been trained," said Nurse Practitioner Lia Crispell. "We have weekly huddles and keep the staff on things as they evolve, and you can have a full exam with a swab, so you can know how to proceed with yourself and your family at home."

Telemedicine options will also still be available, should you wish to see your family physician. And other Geisinger care sites remain open for non-respiratory problems.

Dr. Martin says now is the time this area needs these types of centers the most.

"One of the greatest areas of contagion right now is small parties, weddings, small family get-togethers. The holidays is just going to promote that," said Dr. Martin. "If you have symptoms and just let it go, unfortunately with COVID, people can decline very rapidly."

You may be wondering how to proceed. Do you simply need a test but not an appointment? Or would you rather see your Geisinger family physician, possibly over video? Or is a visit to the cold and flu center your best bet? 

Geisinger has a website they hope will guide you through those questions.