NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Concerns of COVID-19 have people overwhelming emergency rooms looking for testing. Hospital officials are now asking patients to seek help elsewhere if it’s not an emergency.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center officials are encouraging at home COVID tests to free up staff for those who need urgent care.

“If you are having shortness of breath, if you are feeling chest pain, light headed…if you or someone has multiple medical problems that you are following, for instance, if you have a blood pressure cuff at home and it says your blood pressure is low, those are the types of things that say you need to seek further medical care. Obviously, if it gets to an emergency situation you need to get to the emergency room,” said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Aima Ahonkhai of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Ahonkhai says at home COVID tests are reliable.

“If you are having symptoms and you have an at home test that is negative, I would still advise that people go ahead and get a PCR test if they are able to at a facility and, in the mean time, isolating as if they do have disease.”

At Skyline Medical Center, Dr. Murray Arons says they are seeing more positive COVID-19 patients in the emergency room, but the majority aren’t having to be admitted. However, he says the virus is impacting their staff.

“Because omicron seems to be even more contagious than delta, we’ve had a very large number of staff that have been sick, and even though a lot of them haven’t been that sick, we are still, you know, having them off work for a period of time. So, it’s really impacting our staffing levels and stretched us very, very thin,” said Arons, who is the Chairman of Critical Care Medicine at Skyline.

While Dr. Arons and health officials believe omicron is more mild than the delta variant of COVID-19, both can’t stress enough the importance of helping them battle the disease with the vaccine.

“If you do get a bad case of this, it’s still one of the most horrible things that I’ve ever seen, and the way people have to suffer and the way people die, it’s a nightmare. So, even if omicron is milder, please take it seriously and if you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Arons said.

Tracking COVID in Tennessee
📊 COVID-19 cases among TN school-age children
📊 Tennessee’s Current COVID-19 hospitalizations
📊 New COVID-19 cases and deaths reported by month

Officials with Tristar Skyline Medical Center tell News 2 they have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases similar to what other hospitals are seeing, which causes ICU units to reach capacity at certain times.

Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital sent News 2 the following statement regarding how their staff is handling COVID-19:

“ICU bed availability is fluid, with patients being accepted or transferred in and out of units on a daily basis. We are constantly evaluating our bed status at each facility and are making appropriate adjustments to stay ahead of need. We urge Middle Tennesseans to get vaccinated and boostered and to wear masks when crowded indoor settings cannot be avoided.”