Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Due to an increase in individuals seeking COVID-19 testing in Emergency Departments, the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Hospital Association are reminding the public that Emergency Departments are for emergencies only.

“Seeking non-emergency care such as COVID-19 testing in an Emergency Department diverts critical staff time and resources from those with true emergencies,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Our hospital Emergency Departments are experiencing very high volumes of individuals seeking COVID-19 testing. We understand that people want to be safe and follow our recommendations to get tested for COVID-19, but I want to remind the public that Emergency Departments are for those who need critical, life-saving care.”

Individuals with mild symptoms who suspect COVID-19 should visit an urgent care center, federally qualified health center or contact their primary care physician.

“We need the public’s help to preserve Emergency Department resources for those experiencing emergency illnesses and injuries, including life-threatening conditions including heart attacks and strokes,” said New Jersey Hospital Association President and CEO Cathleen Bennett. “New Jersey experienced a high number of deaths at home last year, including people who were facing critical medical issues who waited too long to seek emergency care amid the pandemic. We must not allow concerns about overcrowded Emergency Department to add to that toll of pandemic deaths.”

“It is important to seek emergency care when you need it,” Commissioner Persichilli said. “Individuals experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain – which can be symptoms of COVID-19 as well as other critical illnesses – should call 911 or seek care in an Emergency Department. But those seeking testing should find other locations.”   

The Department is encouraging the public to visit to find one of the over 1,000 testing locations throughout the state, including free pop-up and county sites, rather than go to an Emergency Department. A new federal COVID-19 surge testing site is to officially open on January 1 at the East Orange Division of Senior Services and will provide free nasal swab PCR testing for up to 1,000 individuals per day. The site, located at 90 Halsted St., will be open from January 1 through January 14 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The state also has partnered with Vault Medical Services to offer free at-home testing and you can visit to order your free test.

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