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VCU Health expert offers tips on when to seek medical attention for COVID

vcu healthHoliday travel, family gatherings and the latest surge of new coronavirus cases, triggered by the omicron variant, are driving huge demand for COVID-19 tests.

COVID-19 test seekers now often visit emergency departments for screening purposes. At VCU Health System hospitals, experts ask patients with mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms to contact their primary care provider or use telehealth for non-emergency health concerns before considering a trip to the emergency department.

“After a holiday, it is not uncommon to see our emergency department visits rise,” said Michael Stevens, M.D., interim hospital epidemiologist at VCU Health. “What is uncommon is to see so many people come here just to get a COVID-19 test, leading to longer wait times for those who need urgent care. Our emergency departments won’t turn anyone away, but there are better options that are faster and cheaper for testing, including primary care practices and county testing sites.”

For anyone concerned about a recent COVID-19 exposure, Stevens recommends:

Patients with symptoms

  • Patients with mild or moderate cold symptoms (cough, sore throat, mild fever, and chills, body aches without significant shortness of breath or chest pain) should stay home away from others and isolate until they can get an appointment at one of the Virginia Department of Health-identified testing sites.
  • Existing VCU Health patients should consider a visit to the on-demand virtual urgent care clinic. A VCU Health provider may order a COVID-19 test, depending on the patient’s symptoms.
  • Patients who feel very sick and have trouble breathing or chest pains should immediately go to the nearest emergency department or call 911.

Patients without symptoms

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