17:42 PM

When to get Emergency Care for COVID-19


You or a loved one isn’t feeling well. Perhaps you’re a bit congested, the sniffles maybe a cough and fever. Do you go to the ER, a nearby ExpressCARE or do you just ride it out at home? With international focus and attention on the coronavirus (COVID-19), people continue to ask the question, “How do I know when or if to seek medical intervention?”

There is no simple answer but knowing and understanding signs and symptoms of the virus is a good first step to treatment and recovery according to Marc Bonin, DO, Medical Director, Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Schuylkill Emergency Room.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms associated with COVID-19 include cough, fever, fatigue and trouble breathing. “We are seeing potential COVID cases every day and an increasing number of the ‘worried well’ patients coming in,” Bonin says. “It is important to remind folks that the ER is best for more severe symptoms, while other options are actually better if you are experiencing more minor symptoms.”

When the ER is needed

“We have screening tools that people should consider first, before the ER including being in contact with their primary care physician or an LVHN COVID-19 screening phone call, E-Visit or COVID-19 Video Screening,” Bonin says. However certain signs need ER attention: “For those with a high fever and compromised breathing, an ER visit is appropriate,” Bonin says.

As is with any medical issue, when in doubt, seek medical attention immediately.

COVID-19 pre-screening options

LVHN provides COVID-19 pre-screening options if you think you have symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection:

  • E-visit: A detailed questionnaire visit submitted to an LVHN provider on MyLVHN.org or the MyLVHN app

  • LVHN COVID-19 Screening Visit: A no-appointment needed video interaction with a provider through the MyLVHN app

  • LVHN Video Visit: A by-appointment video interaction with a provider through the MyLVHN app

  • MyLVHN Nurse Information line: 1-888-402-LVHN (5846)

The goal is to screen people via these technologies so that you remain in your own home and only need to leave if testing is needed. This screening helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and it helps keep your doctor's office and ER available for those who need it most.

If you are referred for assessment and testing

During the screening, if our medical professionals conclude you have COVID-19 symptoms and also determine that you are at higher risk for complications, you may be directed to one of LVHN’s stand-alone COVID-19 Assess and Test locations. You will qualify for a test ONLY if you have symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.). The test detects active disease but cannot determine if you have been exposed. It is important to note that tests are reserved for those who need them most.

“Right now, the social distancing that is in place makes sense,” says Luther (Pat) Rhodes, MD, LVHN Chief of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. “This practice will help reduce the spread and flatten the curve that so many health professionals have been discussing. Large health networks like LVHN have the ability to take on the complex challenges of pandemic response because they have experts in infection control and have an existing incident command structure.”

What is flattening the curve?

In epidemiology, the curve refers to the projected number of new cases over a period of time.

In contrast to a steep rise of coronavirus infections, a more gradual uptick of cases will see the same number of people get infected, but without overburdening the health care system at any one time.

The idea of flattening the curve is to stagger the number of new cases over a longer period, so that people have better access to care. Adds Rhodes, “For those who still have concerns that they, a family member or friend may have COVID, learn more information at LVHN.org/COVID19 and CDC.gov.

LVHN has opened 12 stand-alone COVID-19 Assess and Test locations throughout the region. They have been established to minimize our community’s exposure to COVID-19. You must receive guidance via the nurse line, video visit or your doctor to be assessed and possibly tested. If you do not have insurance, you may receive a bill, but you won’t be required to pay.

Tips to keep you healthy

  • Engage in social distancing – 6 feet apart.

  • Stay home if you are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes and face.

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (and often).

  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

  • Cover your sneeze or cough in your elbow.

  • Disinfect surfaces around your home and work.

    • This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, computers, phones, keyboards, sinks, toilets, faucets and countertops.

  • In a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.

For the latest COVID-19 updates and guidelines, visit LVHN.org/covid19.