LiveSmart: Latest COVID Surge Means Longer Wait Times in Local Emergency Departments

Behind the current surge of the new, highly transmissible BA.5 omicron subvariant of COVID, physician leaders are alerting the public about longer wait times in the region’s Emergency Departments. Their take-away message: Patients seeking non-emergency care are likely to have shorter waits by contacting their primary care physician or being seen at one of the many urgent care sites operating throughout the Capital Region.

You can do your part to help keep critical beds open in local hospitals by NOT going to the emergency department with mild symptoms of illness or for routine testing for COVID. Of course, if you have serious symptoms like a high fever, trouble breathing, or chest pain, please call 9-1-1 or immediately go to the emergency department for care.

Otherwise, start with your primary care physician, either in-person or virtually, for evaluation and treatment.

Virtual Care connects you to your provider using a computer or mobile phone. Use SPHP’s virtual care ( for:

  • Common, minor medical conditions
  • To manage chronic conditions like diabetes
  • COVID-19 evaluation
  • Cold, sinus infection or flu
  • Female bladder infection (urinary tract infection)
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitus)
  • Vaginal yeast infection

Urgent care is designed to evaluate and treat minor illnesses. Use urgent care for:

  • COVID-19 testing and evaluation
  • Muscle aches, minor sprains, abrasions
  • Flu, cough, cold, and congestion
  • Bug bites, poison ivy, bruises
  • Minor cuts on extremities that might need a few stitches

Emergency care should be sought anytime a condition is life-threatening. Use emergency care for:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart attack symptoms (Pain, pressure or squeezing in the center of the chest)
  • Stroke symptoms (Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg especially on one side of the body)
  • Persistent shortness of breath
  • Poisoning, overdose
  • Serious head, neck, back injury
  • Severe wounds, severe cuts, amputations
  • Coughing up blood or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Any life-threatening or limb-threatening injuries

When every second counts, St. Peter’s Health Partners has top-quality emergency departments and urgent care centers all across the Capital Region.

Our emergency departments in Albany and Troy are open 24 hours, seven days a week, offering a wide range of services for emergency care with highly trained staff, diagnostic testing and access to specialists. St. Peter’s Health Partners also has a joint venture with WellNow Urgent Care, welcoming walk-ins and offering online appointments.

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