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When to go to the Emergency Room

With emergency rooms seeing longer-than-normal wait times, many people are avoiding treatment.

LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — As COVID-19 cases rapidly increase, hospitals are filling up fast. Dr. T. Christian Daniello has been an emergency physician since 2010 and says the current conditions are like nothing he's seen in his career.

"To say we're completely overwhelmed would be putting it lightly," Dr. Daniello said.

Dr. Daniello works in the emergency department at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre. He says there are patients in every corner of the emergency department, sometimes waiting up to three days before they can get a room.

"We've tucked patients in corners everywhere in the hospital. We have hallway beds on top of hallway beds. We have everybody put wherever we can. We've converted our conference room to an area where we're treating patients," Dr. Daniello said.

Hearing this would make most of us not want to go to the emergency room. So when should we go to the ER, and when should we stay home? Dr. Daniello says the short answer is if you think you have an emergency condition that cannot wait, go to the hospital.

"If you're severely short of breath, you can barely stand up, get out of your chair and can't walk more than a few feet without getting really short of breath, just can't get oxygen in, you need to come see us," Dr. Daniello said.

The doctor recommends getting an at-home pulse-ox monitor to check your blood oxygen level. If it goes below 90%, go to the ER.

"If you're having chest pain with breathing, every time you take a deep breath in and out, it really hurts in your chest; it could be a sign of something going on, a blood clot in your lung. We would definitely want to see you," Dr. Daniello said.

If you have an illness or concern that you think can wait to talk to your primary care physician, Dr. Daniello recommends staying home and calling your doctor.

Watch more stories about the coronavirus pandemic on WNEP’s YouTube page.