CHICAGO (CBS) — You’ve been social distancing for months, so how safe is it to get up close and personal with your optometrist?

CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas asked the eye experts their thoughts on routine appointments.

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“In terms of the overall COVID experience, I think that we’re going to practice differently from here on out,” said Dr. Robert Steinmetz.

That has meant fewer patients.

“We had to space out our appointment times. We had to go down to seeing patients once an hour in the beginning, and then we went down to every half an hour once we were able to make sure our routines and protocols were safe,” Steinmetz said.

It has also meant more personal protective equipment.

“We are all wearing masks,” Steinmetz said.

And it has meant innovative ways of practicing eye care.

“We’ve been able to keep a lot of the patients that have routine complaints and general non-threatening sight conditions out of the office using telehealth,” he said.

Steinmetz is an optometrist and the owner of SoLo Eye Care, at 1444 S. Michigan Ave. in the South Loop.

“In the beginning of May, we returned to routine care with extreme social distancing,” he said.

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And that took some adjusting.

“I think the challenge has been, initially, having patients getting used to a new protocol,” Steinmetz said.

Patients are now screened for symptoms before they arrive. They are asked for insurance and payments online, and their temperature is taken once they’re in the office.

“What patients have to understand is we’re not trying to inconvenience them with these questions,” Steinmetz said. “They’re meant for their safety and the safety of our staff.”

On top of all this, all the equipment used to test eyesight has been modified to protect patients.

“We’ve had custom shields built for the microscope in order to eliminate the transfer of the breath,” Steinmetz said.

And his patients feel safe. In fact, appointments have been on the rise.

“The demand’s been incredible,” Steinmetz said.

We also spoke with the president of the American Optometry Association. She said routine eye appointments are safe too.

The experts say there is not a need to reschedule.

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And if you’re in need of a glasses frame adjustment, many eye doctors let you drop off your glasses and later have you pick them up once they’ve been altered.

Tim McNicholas