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In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, many emergency rooms were slammed with patients who either had COVID-19 or were terrified they could have it. And while urban, hospital-aligned urgent care centers saw similar crippling volumes, many others had empty waiting rooms as patients who had relatively minor concerns stayed home out of fear they’d be exposed to the virus. Now as 2021 dawns there’s a greater understanding of who is really at greatest risk and how healthcare facilities can lower risk for all. Just in time, too, as EDs are again filling up with patients concerned over their coronavirus status. Informed by lessons of last spring, at least one ED chief says urgent care centers are well-positioned to help alleviate ED overflow. Andrew Edwards, MD interim chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, is quoted in a UAB blog as saying “we have a lot of patients who come to us for a variety of conditions, some of which might be better handled at alternative care sites…which would reduce the overcrowding we see in the EDs,” including urgent care centers. The post went on to list the addresses and operating hours of UAB’s urgent care centers. This is a great time to remind patients—as well as area hospital and traditional primary care offices—that urgent care is an ideal destination for patients who have immediate, nonemergent care needs.

Emergency Rooms Are Overflowing Thanks to COVID-19—and One ED Chief Says Urgent Care Is the Solution