ERs are strained due to the pandemic, so it may be better to be seen elsewhere

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jan 14, 2021

Emergency rooms across the country are under pressure as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, a majority of states are experiencing record numbers in hospitalizations, which affects all departments, including emergency rooms.

Experts in emergency medicine tell us hospitals don't just have a higher number of patients, but emergency calls haven't stopped. And they're also seeing more visits from people who believe they have COVID-19 or need testing.

With the strain on ERs and their staffs, it's advised that we think about whether we really should go to the hospital, or if it's better to be seen somewhere else.

“Things that an urgent care can handle could be things like a sprained ankle or a sprained wrist or a pulled muscle or even a cut or a laceration, or something to that effect,” said Andra Blomkalns, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University.

Another rule of thumb is if you can see yourself going home after your visit, then it's better to go to an urgent care.

Since some of the strain on ERs is due to COVID-19, people are encouraged to look up other testing sites.

“Usually, an emergency department or an urgent care has a very limited capacity to do just testing for COVID-19. So, if you feel like you’ve been exposed or traveled recently, or have other concerns, try to access one of those resources on your county’s website,” said Blomkalns.

There are cases where you should definitely go to an emergency room. That includes feeling short of breath, having chest pains, or feeling like you're having a stroke.