PHILADELPHIA — Local hospitals have reported an increase in people seeking COVID-19 testing in their emergency departments. The Health Department wants to remind the public that emergency departments are for emergencies only. Seeking non-emergency COVID-19 testing in an emergency department diverts critical, life-saving resources from people who are truly experiencing an emergency.

“Our hospital teams are at the ready to provide emergency care for patients with illnesses and injuries of all kinds, but we need the public’s help in safeguarding our resources to provide the right care in the right settings,” said P.J. Brennan, MD, chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Anyone experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain – which can be symptoms of COVID-19 and many other critical illnesses – should call 911 or seek care in an emergency department, but people in need of testing should seek other sites for care.”

“It’s important to seek emergency care when you need it. When you need emergency care, you should go to the ER right away,” said Rohit Gulati, MD, MBA, FACHE, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Einstein Healthcare Network. “There are better places to go when you’re feeling unwell but don’t need emergency care. The best place to go to or call is your primary care physician. They can guide you in these situations. Urgent care is another great choice if you can’t see your primary care physician.”

“Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen dramatic increases in visits to our Emergency Departments,” said Dr. Sharon Carney, Chief Clinical Officer Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic. “Many people are presenting for COVID-19 testing that can and should be done at community sites or an urgent care. If you have mild symptoms and suspect COVID-19, contact your primary care physician, or visit an urgent care. We ask our community to please not come to an ED for testing. Visiting an ED without a medical need takes valuable resources away from patients who need us and are critically ill and overwhelms our healthcare workers.“

“While we encourage testing prior to gatherings, if you do not have symptoms, do not come to the ER for COVID testing,” said Dr. Edmund deAzevedo Pribitkin, Chief Physician Executive of Jefferson Health. “In doing so, you will put yourself and your loved ones at greater risk and delay necessary care for others. We simply will not provide COVID testing for individuals without symptoms due to our limited emergency resources.”

“We understand that people want to be safe when they gather with friends and family this Christmas,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “And we’ve all seen how difficult it is to find testing throughout the region. But overwhelming the city’s emergency departments just so you can gather for the holiday is dangerous for everyone.”

The Health Department maintains a COVID-19 testing finder at Additionally, many urgent care and doctor’s offices can test for COVID-19.

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