After receiving the green light to resume preventative care, local optometrists have welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with patients and get creative with their safety protocols.
On May 11, optometrists and dentists were allowed to resume preventative care and elective surgery. In March, Gov. Tim Walz had restricted the clinics to only emergency care, and visits fell by around 90% at some local clinics.
With the reopening, clinics are scheduling more lightly and finding ways to limit foot traffic throughout the clinic to keep patients safe, two local optometrists said this month.
Dr. Steven Reinders, who owns Complete Family Eyecare in Prior Lake with his wife, said the clinic closed its waiting room area and asks patients to remain in their cars until they can be taken into their appointment.
"This is uncharted waters, and we want to control who we have in the clinic," Reinders said.
A new plexiglass barrier, built by Reinders, protects the receptionist's desk, and all patients and staff are required to wear masks.
Reinders said some older patients are still holding off on preventative care, so while normal business has resumed, it's at a scaled-down version. But they're finding creative ways to make patients feel safe when they arrive.
If you're needing an updated glasses prescription, an automated machine allows Reinders to perform touch-less eye exams from 6 feet away, for instance.
Dr. Vicki Leuhmann, an optometrist who owns Valley Eye Clinic & Optical in Jordan, said her clinic sees around one patient per hour, and all staff and patients are required to wear masks.
The office's fabric chairs were traded for folding chairs that can be cleaned more easily, and miscellaneous items, such as the coffee maker and kids toys, were put into storage while she waits to see how everything evolves.
Leuhmann and Reinders agree running a small clinic with only a few employees enables flexibility. Reinders said he's optimistic they'll be able to make protocol adjustments within minutes.
Leuhmann, the only physician at Valley Eye Clinic, said the small business model allows her to see patients on Saturdays and make other adjustments to provide care.
"In a small town, I think they appreciate that more," she said.
Preventive care and elective procedures also brought an opportunity to reconnect with the community.
"I always want this to be a fun experience," Reinders said. "It's an eye care experience — we don't want to lose that side of things, but we still want to have some degree of fun."
"I miss my patients, I miss doing what I do," Leuhmann said about the past months. "Everyone is excited to talk with people."
There's no handshaking, and it's different interacting with a mask, but it's still a blessing, she added.