Opinion

Rigler: As COVID-19 cases rise, please help keep ERs open for emergencies

Posted 1/18/22

With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, Arizona has seen more COVID-19 cases in the past week than any other week of the pandemic. Alongside this increase, we’ve seen more people seeking care in hospital emergency rooms and more people seeking COVID-19 testing.

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Opinion

Rigler: As COVID-19 cases rise, please help keep ERs open for emergencies

Posted

With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, Arizona has seen more COVID-19 cases in the past week than any other week of the pandemic.

Alongside this increase, we’ve seen more people seeking care in hospital emergency rooms and more people seeking COVID-19 testing.

Both of these are challenging in their own right. But one avoidable problem is occurring: Hospitals report that people with no symptoms or mild symptoms are seeking COVID-19 tests at emergency rooms instead of designated testing sites. This is making it more difficult to care for people facing medical emergencies.

Arizona’s hospitals are already strained caring for both COVID-19 patients, the vast majority of whom aren’t vaccinated, and others who need medical attention. With emergency rooms on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, we need everyone to help make sure ERs are reserved for immediate medical needs.

Alternatives to the ER for those not experiencing a medical emergency include your primary care physician, a local community health clinic, urgent care centers, or telehealth services available through many insurance companies.

Of course, if you have a medical emergency, or are experiencing symptoms like trouble breathing, uncontrolled bleeding, altered mental state, or signs of a stroke or heart attack, don’t hesitate to go to an emergency room to get the attention you need.

Here are some testing options, most of them free:

  • Our website has a map showing hundreds of testing locations across the state.
  • In the Phoenix area, ASU, the city of Phoenix, and Maricopa County have testing locations.
  • Pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens offer testing.
  • Home tests can be purchased in stores and online.

If your health concern is less urgent or involves COVID-19 testing, please take advantage of these alternatives to ensure doctors and nurses in hospital emergency rooms are ready to provide care for those in urgent need of it.

Editor’s note: Jessica Rigler is assistant director overseeing the Division of Public Health Preparedness at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Visit azdhs.gov.

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