LANSING — If a patient discharged from Sparrow Hospital has no way to get home, it’s recommended they take an Uber or Lyft.

That is true even if the patient tests positive for COVID-19, said Dr. R. Dale Jackson, Sparrow’s director of EMS and preparedness.

“In a COVID world, we have to assume everyone has coronavirus,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to continue operating a Lyft or Uber, you have to assume everyone who gets into your car may be infected.”

He said he knows it sounds odd, but Sparrow has to get patients home.

Patients like Larry Crandall, 65, of Mason, who returned to the hospital for the third time April 13 after testing positive for COVID-19 March 27.

Crandall said his care was great, but he was concerned during the discharge process when a nurse told him to take an Uber if he had no one who could take him home.

“Sparrow really missed the mark on that one,” Crandall said. “They need to be more careful about putting us people who have the virus in contact with the public.”

He was wearing a mask and on day two with no fever but was still officially quarantined. He worried.

“Nobody knows when you become non-contagious for coronavirus,” Crandall said. “I’m not supposed to be around anyone who isn’t gowned up in PPE.”

The Ingham County Health Department called Crandall later that day to check on his progress. Crandall said they were upset with how his discharge was handled.

Speaking Monday during a bi-weekly media briefing, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said Capital Area Transportation Authority may be better equipped to handle taking patients home from the hospital through special services like Spec-Tran. CATA also has limited curb-to-curb services running during the pandemic.

“If there is a way for them to get home in a safe manner, such as SpecTran where they are trained, that would be best for them,” Ingham County Commissioner Bryan Crenshaw said during the briefing.

Using Uber and Lyft creates a proximity issue, Vail said, as it’s not possible to social distance in a small vehicle. Moving forward, Vail said, she isn’t sure what guidelines on ride-sharing services will look like, but it needs to be a part of their strategy.

The first time Crandall was admitted to the hospital, his son took him home, forcing him to self-quarantine for two weeks. This time, his son was hesitant to come.

“They forced me to put someone into an impossible situation,” he said. “Nobody should’ve been put in that position.”

Jackson said Uber or Lyft is used as a last resort and is an option they suggested to patients even before the pandemic.

Ride-share drivers should wear masks and have a set routine for disinfecting their car after each ride, Jackson said.

“This is going to become commonplace as we start to roll back our stay-home campaign.”

*By Kara Berg via Lansing State Journal*