Save the Emergency Room for Emergencies 

Photo of Nate Marshall

With COVID cases on the rise again, questions about testing, vaccinations, and when to seek emergency care are trending in the community.

While the Nash UNC Emergency Department team stands ready to take care of patients with emergent needs, they also want to be sure patients who do not need emergency medical care find the services they need in the appropriate care setting.

Photo of Meredith Denton“We have seen a significant influx of people coming to the Emergency Department just to be tested for COVID-19, but not seeking medical care,” said Meredith Denton, Emergency Department director at Nash UNC Health Care. “This strains our limited resources which need to be focused on providing emergency medical care to those who need it most. It’s also important for people to understand that seeking care at the Emergency Department requires a full medical evaluation, which results in Emergency Department and medical provider charges.”

Denton went on to explain the free and low-cost COVID testing options available in the area and urged people who need testing only to seek out those resources.

“We’d like to remind the community of the variety of free or low-cost COVID testing locations available in the community, which are listed online at the NC DHHS COVID Testing Locator,” she said. “With the overwhelming spike in demand for testing over the last few weeks, many testing sites have run into temporary supply issues which tend to ebb and flow throughout the week as testing shipments arrive.”

The Testing Locator is on the website. When using the locator, simply type in your zip code to find testing locations near you. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) has also partnered with LabCorp to provide free at-home testing kits. That information can be found on the website. 

In addition to finding COVID testing locations, some patients have questions about when it’s best to seek emergency care and when it’s better to seek care in a primary or urgent care practice. Denton provided the information below to help patients determine the best care setting for a variety of medical situations.

Primary Care or Urgent Care – Minor Injury and Illness

  • Eye or ear infection
  • Sprain or strain
  • Allergic reaction
  • Cold, cough, flu, fever
  • Minor burn, cut
  • Minor asthma attack or bronchitis
  • Nausea, migraine
  • Dehydration

Emergency Department – Life-Threatening Injury and Illness

  • Chest pain or heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Broken bone or deep wound
  • Constant vomiting
  • Severe and prolonged shortness of breath
  • Allergic reaction to food or insect bite
  • Head injury and/or unconsciousness
  • Heavy, uncontrolled bleeding
  • Seizure

Nash UNC leaders are also urging people to get vaccinated against COVID or receive their booster as soon as possible.

“We have experienced a rapid increase of COVID cases in our community and hospital this month at an unprecedented rate, which is why it is so important for people to be vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible,” explained Nash UNC CEO Dr. L. Lee Isley.

The hospital provided the below graphic to explain the latest booster guidance from the CDC.

Isley explained that community members can visit Nash UNC’s Walk-In COVID Vaccine Clinic at Nash Day Hospital for their vaccine or booster shot. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 am until 4 pm, and on Thursdays until 6 pm. Vaccines are free and do not require insurance or a photo ID.

No appointment is necessary, but if you have questions or would like to make an appointment for a specific time, schedule a homebound visit, or coordinate a community vaccine event, call Nash UNC's Community Vaccination Line at (252) 962-8624.

For more information about the vaccine clinic, or to access frequently asked questions, please visit

Booster Guidance Chart