Since the omicron variant became the dominant strain, COVID-19 testing doubled in the emergency rooms at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Twin Cities Community Hospital.
Staff says this is in part because people will show up to the ER just to find COVID-19 tests.
Dr. Kathryn Haran, the Chair of the Emergency Department at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, said, “When people come to the emergency room for non-emergency reasons, things like COVID testing and they're concerned that they may have COVID or were exposed to COVID, then they're exposing a whole other set of people. They're exposing the registration clerks, they're exposing the doctors, they're exposing the nurses.”
Another concern of people going to ER to find COVID-19 tests is that some people experiencing medical emergencies do not want to go and be exposed to COVID-19.
“We don't want a delay in diagnosis of your stroke because there's interventions that we can do right away to help people and people who are staying away from the E.R. because they're scared of COVID, who are having to emergency should not do that,” said Haran.
If you have severe symptoms, medical professionals say to go to the ER right away.
But otherwise, more people can contribute to longer wait times and fewer resources.
“If that nurse who sees the patient who comes in for a COVID test, then is exposed to COVID and has to go out. That's one less nurse that's available to care for patients,” said Haran.
Health officials say if you are symptomatic, even without a positive test, you should stay home.
If someone was exposed to COVID, or tested positive, and they’re unsure of whether they should go to the emergency room, they can call the hospital tele-ER line 805-546-7990, where they can speak to a medical professional and tell them any concerns.