For more than two months, COVID-19 concerns stalled Robert Tassell’s quest for medical help with rotator cuff pain.

“Everything was closed,” the Caledonia, Michigan, resident said about state orders that required non-essential health care visits to be temporarily placed on hold while the immediate novel coronavirus threat and urgent health concerns became priority No. 1.

Spectrum Health primary care offices are in the process of phased reopening, with social distancing and other precautionary measures in place. While virtual care continues to be offered to all patients, in-person visits for routine or non-urgent health concerns are also now available, with safety top of mind.

On Tuesday, May 19, Tassell visited Adam Mitchell, DO, his primary care physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group Family Medicine in Caledonia.

The precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 that he saw at the office impressed him.

“I had a mask,” Tassell said. “When I walked in I don’t think there was anybody else in there.”

Dr. Mitchell said the phased reopening is going well.

“It’s great to be back in our office,” he said. “Patients have been excited to be able to seek the care needed close to home again. We are taking extra precautions in the office to help keep patients safe.”

Waiting room chairs are spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart with signage on some chairs asking people to avoid sitting in them to keep adequate space between people. Floors are marked for social distancing. All patients are screened for COVID-19 before their appointments. If a patient has symptoms of the virus, they are directed to the Spectrum Health hotline and tested.

“Patients are using hand sanitizer when entering and leaving the building,” Dr. Mitchell said. “Everyone is provided with a mask to wear during check-in. Patients’ time in the waiting room is being minimized and we are rooming patients very quickly so that there is no congregation of patients. All staff are wearing masks for patient safety and we are washing into and out of rooms to help protect patients.”

After a patient has used a room, the entire space is wiped down with disinfectant before the next patient arrives.

Dr. Mitchell said he’s heard a lot of positive feedback.

“I do feel that patients are excited to be seen by their primary care provider again,” he said. “We have had quite a bit of positive feedback and patients seem to feel safe coming in.”

Tassell said not only did Dr. Mitchell prescribe physical therapy for his shoulder woes, he also took time to advise him on precautions to take on his upcoming planned trip to the Florida Keys to pick up his fishing boat.

Tassell believes he may be at higher risk for COVID-19 because he’s a smoker and has Type 2 diabetes. Dr. Mitchell suggested he be extra careful at gas pumps on the trip and follow other CDC recommendations.

“Mr. Tassell’s appointment was to follow up on his chronic conditions as well as care for his shoulder,” Dr. Mitchell said. “We were able to get labs and he is going to participate in physical therapy for rehab of his shoulder. I feel that with therapy, he will be able to strengthen his rotator cuff and will be back to golfing in no time.”

Tassell said he returned to Michigan from a Florida fishing trip in February, and planned to return to the Keys in April “but the Keys were closed.”

He hopes to head there soon to “wet a line then come back.”

His wet line will be aiming for mahi, grouper and snapper, then he’ll haul his boat back to Michigan for fishing on inland lakes.

“I bring it up here for the summer instead of leaving it for the hurricanes,” Tassell said. “It went through Hurricane Erma. It was in a barn and parts of it came down. It got beat up pretty good.”

But now his boat is mended, he’ll soon be on the mend and he’s looking forward to rehabbing and reeling in some big ones.