Triad hospitals urge people not to seek COVID-19 tests in emergency departments

Published 11:11 am Monday, January 3, 2022

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There are better options for COVID-19 testing.

Large numbers of people are going to hospital emergency departments for COVID-19 tests. Representatives of area hospitals say they aren’t the place for routine COVID-19 testing for the public.

People wanting COVID-19 tests are causing longer waits in already crowded emergency departments. Representatives of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Cone Health and Novant Health say it is imperative that our communities seek the care they need, when they need it — in the right place. However, they worry that people seeking COVID-19 testing may cause delays in care for people with true emergencies.

People wanting COVID-19 testing should get an appointment at [] [] or go to their neighborhood pharmacy or other testing location. Many testing sites are intended for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and those with symptoms. People seeking travel, return-to-work or return-to-school clearance are asked to use the NCDHHS Test Site Finder [] for a location that better suits their needs

Hospital emergency departments are already busy with a surge in COVID-19 cases, seasonal influenza and traditional respiratory infections. Area health systems ask that people use virtual care, urgent care or their regular doctor whenever possible to avoid coming to the emergency department for non-life-threatening care. Here are five common reasons that people come to an emergency department for that can be addressed elsewhere:

  • Advice and treatment for simple COVID infections/exposures
  • Ear and eye infections
  • Skin problems (minor burns, rashes, and insect bites)
  • Cold/flu/allergy symptoms
  • Muscle or joint pain

While virtual options are often covered by insurance, people should contact their insurer beforehand to learn more.