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Emergency rooms are for emergencies.' Hospitals grow concerned as more people turn to ER for COVID Testing

Emergency Room
Posted at 9:15 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 23:20:27-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) -- As Covid cases surge following the holidays - Marylanders are trying to get their hands on Covid test kits.

"Everyone so scared of going back and whatever happened with Christmas," said Rachel Murphy.

Rachel along with 300 plus people lined up outside the Howard County Health Department for free testing kits.

"As soon as I saw it on Facebook, I put my jacket on and drove here," said Keith Blair.

Long lines like the one seen Tuesday have occurred everywhere test kits are being given away. Many people just want to know their status.

But what happens when you can't find one or book an appointment in a timely manner? WMAR 2 News has learned many people are turning to hospital Emergency rooms. People can walk in and ask to be tested.

"I've been trying to get a test from regular places," said one woman.

So, what do you do when kits can't be found?

"Many hospital directors tell me that there’s a large number of people seeking covid tests who may be asymptomatic or not seriously ill," said Bob Atlas, president

and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association. "Many people are coming to hospital emergency rooms because they're frustrated."

But the new go-to place has become problematic for some hospital staff. More people in the ER means a greater wait time which impacts patient care.

Hospital staffers are also feeling the added stress.

"Hospital ERs are not for Covid testing. For the love of all that is good and holy please stop coming to the ER for Covid testing," wrote one person. "I know it’s hard to get a test anywhere, but ERs and hospitals are extremely overwhelmed right now. The patient that is forced to wait to be seen for a heart attack or stroke could be your family member."

Another person wrote, "Our ED track board show the waiting room yesterday. Yes, people, unless you are really sick, please consider doing a home test or going to a testing facility such as State Center."

It's a statement being reiterated by some health professionals and organizations.

"Hospital emergency rooms are really at all times for emergencies, especially now," said Atlas.

While hospitals won't turn someone away for requesting a Covid test, health professionals are encouraging people to check with their primary care physician, urgent care facilities, participating pharmacies and state and county run vaccination/testing sites.