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Health systems plea: Don’t go to emergency departments for COVID tests

All local health systems say people are overwhelming ED’s looking for tests and making it hard to care for people who need urgent attention
Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 5:17 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A new record high cases of COVID-19 were recorded in North Carolina on New Year’s Eve - 19,174. The number grew 3% from just the day before.

Testing sites are booked, leaving people to look elsewhere to see if they’re positive. But health systems in the Carolinas are begging people not to go to the hospital for one.

“All emergency departments in our area are really just at their saturated with patients,” Director of Nursing for Novant Health ED’s, Courtney Cortez, said.

The message is clear – hospitals are overwhelmed, staff is short and coronavirus cases are rising by the day.

“We are seeing the highest volume of patients I’ve ever seen in my time at Novant, even since the beginning of COVID. Patients we are seeing are coming in for primarily COVID testing and really for COVID exposure,” Cortez said.

Emergency Departments are designed to respond to just that, emergencies. The concern is that they are when they’re swamped with people wanting a COVID test, they won’t be able to help people who truly need urgent care.

“It’s really just numbers,” Cortez said. “The numbers of patients coming in are massive, we’re experiencing much longer than normal wait times for patients so that definitely creates a harder environment for patients that need to be in the emergency department for an emergency issue.”

There are other options for testing, though they may be hard to find at the moment.

“Every single day we are assessing how we can expand our testing,” Dr. Jim Hunter with Atrium Health said.

The bottom line, though, is quite clear according to Dr. Sid Fletcher with Novant Health.

“If you are ill, the ED may be the right venue but if you’re not, the ED is not,” Dr. Fletcher said.

If you need a test, Novant, Atrium, StarMed and Mecklenburg County all say they’re working to secure more supplies. Keep checking back. Or, if you’re symptomatic but can’t find a test, isolate at home.

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