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Penn State Health advises patients not to head to Emergency Department for COVID-19 testing

Penn State Health advises patients not to head to Emergency Department for COVID-19 testing


HERSHEY, PA – Penn State Health advises the public that hospital emergency departments should not be used for routine COVID-19 testing. In recent days, the health system has seen an influx of patients—including those who are asymptomatic—seeking COVID-19 tests at its emergency departments in central PA and the Berks region.

“People seeking COVID-19 tests at the emergency department when they are not sick place a tremendous burden on the medical staff’s ability to treat patients who need emergent care,” said Dr. Peter Dillon, chief clinical officer, Penn State Health. Currently, Penn State Health’s emergency departments—like those throughout the commonwealth—are experiencing hours-long waits due to excessive patient volumes. “We are asking for the public’s help during this time of high demand for care by seeking the medical care they need from the most appropriate places, and only using their local emergency department for true emergent needs.”

Recommendations for treatment:

People who are fully vaccinated and boosted and who have mild COVID symptoms that are not getting worse, such as a sore throat, runny nose or congestion, do not need to go to a hospital emergency department. They should first seek care from their family physician or an urgent care center.

People experiencing more serious COVID symptoms such as difficulty breathing, sustained high fever, confusion or the inability to stay hydrated should seek medical attention from their physician, and a visit to a hospital emergency department may be appropriate.

Recommendations for testing:

Individuals who are symptomatic for COVID-19 (whether a Penn State Health patient or not) may use Penn State Health’s OnDemand app for a virtual appointment to discuss symptoms and determine whether they need testing. Current Penn State Health patients may also contact their Penn State Health Medical Group primary care provider to discuss symptoms and the need for a visit or testing.

People with COVID symptoms also can purchase an at-home test, available at some drug stores throughout central Pennsylvania or online. Because a positive at-home test result in a symptomatic patient is considered highly accurate, patients should not seek a second confirmatory test from Penn State Health.

People without COVID-19 symptoms who come to a Penn State Health emergency department seeking a COVID-19 test due to possible exposure or upcoming travel should be aware that they may be redirected to other testing options available from Penn State Health or in the community. These individuals can also visit to find a testing site.

People without a primary care provider can call Penn State Health at 1-800-243-1455 or visit our Get Care Now site for care options near them based on their care need.