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Vehicles line up free COVID-19 tests at the Garfield County Health Department in November 2020.

ENID, Okla. — Local hospitals are asking people seeking COVID-19 tests to steer clear of emergency rooms.

As ERs become overcrowded by those in need of COVID-19 tests, both St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Integris Bass Baptist Health Center are encouraging people to use appropriate testing sites to allow ER staff to focus on treating urgent medical needs.

Heidi Hughes, director of marketing at St. Mary’s, said ERs are set up to respond to life-threatening situations, and that although ERs do care for and treat non-life-threatening problems, they have to be prepared for unexpected medical conditions that require immediate attention and treatment.

“If someone comes into the emergency department experiencing chest pain, stroke symptoms or has a traumatic injury, they’re obviously going to be evaluated before non-life-threatening conditions such as a sore throat or an earache,” she said. “It’s causing longer wait times for patients with less severe symptoms, some of which are seeking COVID testing, so we’re just trying to help minimize the longer wait times.”

A guide on how to get a COVID-19 test in Garfield County

Tests for COVID-19 are available at various sites in Enid, including Garfield County Health Department, 2051 Mercer, by appointment only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; Walgreens Pharmacy, 929 W. Garriott and 3915 E. Garriott, by making an appointment online; Xpress Wellness Urgent Care, 220 S. Van Buren, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-7 p.m. Sunday by filling out an online form; CVS Pharmacy, 930 W. Garriott, via the drive-thru by filling out a form online for a PCR/NAAT test; and Enid Live Well, 2111 N. Van Buren, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, by filling out two forms.

Integris’ Urgent Care Plus and Urgent Care North both offer testing for COVID-19, as well, though patients need to have seen a provider before getting the test, said Kurt DeVaney, Integris chief hospital executive. At-home COVID-19 tests are available in Integris’ retail pharmacy, as well as at places like Walgreens, CVS and Walmart while supplies last.

“There’s other avenues to get tested for COVID other than the ERs,” DeVaney said, “because they are just very busy right now, and if someone’s just getting a COVID test, we don’t want them to have to wait for a long time, and there’s just other places they could get that at.”

Hughes also said people who are experiencing more severe symptoms of COVID-19, like shortness of breath or a high-grade fever, should seek medical attention immediately.

“If somebody does have COVID, or they don’t know if they have COVID, but they’re experiencing the severe symptoms of the virus, ... then, absolutely — they should come to the emergency room,” she said.

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McKendrick is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. 
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Kelci? Send an email to kelcim@enidnews.com.

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