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Hospitals urge people not to go to ER for COVID testing

“The emergency department is not a place for testing. It's a place you go when you have an emergency and need care in an emergency.”

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — Doctors are urging everyone: if you need a COVID-19 test, don't go to the emergency room.

Hospitals across the Midlands are overwhelmed with asymptomatic people seeking COVID-19 tests and said that it's delaying care for those who actually need it. 

Melanie Matney, the chief operating officer for the South Carolina Hospital Association, said there's a concern bigger than the number of COVID-19 tests - it's people going to the emergency room for a test. 

“The emergency department is not a place for testing. It's a place you go when you have an emergency and need care in an emergency,” said Matney. 

Matney echoed concerns from hospitals across South Carolina: if you need a COVID-19 test, don't go to the emergency room. Hospital officials say the influx of people takes resources away from those who need them. 

RELATED: Local pharmacies sell out of at-home COVID tests, struggle for inventory

Urgent care physician at Lexington Medical Center, Dr. Don Moore, said this surge of people coming for tests is also causing wait times in the ER to be up to four hours long. 

“If you simply are mildly symptomatic or not symptomatic and want to be tested, go to a testing site," said Moore. "It will be a lot more efficient for you easier and you're not exposed to other sick people.”

“I noticed that starting last Thursday when I worked, we had seen like one or two people a week with COVID, and then that day I saw 15 and now it's in the 20s and so the surge is on and so the wait times can be high,” said Moore. 

Instead of coming to the ER, Moore urged people to use an at-home test kit or go to a local pharmacy - or even urgent care is a better alternative. 

However, if someone has serious symptoms like a high fever or trouble breathing, then Moore said it's okay to come to the emergency room. 

DHEC testing sites are back up and running after the holiday break as well. 

 A full list of COVID-19 testing sites near you can be found on SCDHEC's website

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