St. Luke's: Don't use emergency departments for routine COVID-19 testing

St. Lukes
Posted at 9:25 AM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 11:25:08-04

BOISE, Idaho — As novel coronavirus cases increase in Idaho, St. Luke's is reminding people not to use emergency departments for COVID-19 testing without severe symptoms. At St. Luke's, COVID-19 tests are available by appointment only and at certain clinics.

In a news release, St. Luke's says more people have come to the emergency departments asking for COVID tests, often with no or mild symptoms. Due to the rise in moderate to severe COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization, it is important to keep the limited resources in these departments.

The health system provides COVID-19 tests for symptomatic patients in certain primary care clinics by appointment only. Most locations have same-day tests available and results are back within one to two days. Walk-ins are not available and the emergency department is only for people who need treatment for an urgent medical condition or severe symptoms.

St. Luke's recommends everyone who may have symptoms or have been exposed use the self-triage tool in myChart to determine the next steps. MyChart accounts can be created online. If the tool says a person should be tested, they will be able to schedule an appointment at one of the locations. A COVID-19 hotline is set up for instructions or help at 208-381-9500.

For Asymptomatic Patients (not exhibiting symptoms):
St. Luke’s offers asymptomatic COVID-19 testing ONLY for patients who have an upcoming planned surgery or specific procedures that involve increased exposure to a patient’s breath and/or airway. The test will be part of the pre-surgery process, as ordered by a provider, and done by appointment. Asymptomatic testing at St. Luke’s is also done before a patient is discharged or transferred from a St. Luke’s hospital to a long-term care or skilled nursing facility.


Figuring out when you need to go to the hospital can feel overwhelming, especially with COVID-19 in our community. You may be afraid to go when it is necessary or worry you are not sick enough yet. Please know hospitals are a safe place for care.

To help keep you and your family healthy, St. Luke’s created this short stoplight guide to help you decide when it is appropriate to seek emergency care and when your primary care clinic or urgent care may be a better choice.


If you are experiencing a medical emergency call 911.

Go to the nearest hospital right away if you experience symptoms of any life-threatening illness. Do not ignore your body’s warning signs. Hospitals are safe places for care. Protective measures are in place to protect you from getting or spreading COVID-19 in the Emergency Department.

Symptoms that may indicate you have a life-threatening emergency include:
· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
· Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
· Sudden dizziness, weakness or fainting
· Sudden change to vision
· Confusion or sudden change in your mental status
· Sudden or severe pain
· Uncontrolled bleeding
· Severe vomiting or diarrhea
· Vomiting or coughing blood
· Difficulty speaking

It is critical to get urgent help, especially for heart attacks, strokes and significant injuries. In these cases, timely treatment saves lives. Delaying treatment due to fear over coronavirus can have serious, even deadly consequences.

Severe COVID-19 Symptoms to Watch

People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or suspect they may have it, should watch for specific symptoms when determining when to go to the hospital:
· Shortness of breath while at rest
· A dry cough, fever and it is getting more difficult to breathe
· Significant or worrisome cough that is increasing
· Confusion or sudden change in mental status
· Chest pain
· Low oxygen levels
· Extreme sleepiness or inability to wake
· Blue face or lips


If you are not experiencing shortness of breath, but do feel you are getting sicker, you may need to be evaluated by a medical professional. If you’re concerned, we want to see you.

Symptoms to watch closely, especially in combination:
· Fever with muscle aches and fatigue
· Reduced sense of taste and smell
· Severe diarrhea and other stomach problems
· Increasing dry, persistent cough that is worsening


If you think you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have mild symptoms, do NOT come to the hospital. The Emergency Department will not test you for COVID-19 without severe illness. For patients with mild symptoms, COVID-19 tests are ONLY available by appointment and at certain clinics.

If you are experiencing mild symptoms:
· Stay at home. Self-quarantine is critical to stopping coronavirus spread. · Use St. Luke’s self-triage tool in myChart; it will help determine what to do next. MyChart accounts can be created online.
· If self-triage indicates you should be tested, you will be able to schedule an appointment in myChart at a designated clinic location.
· A COVID-19 hotline offers instructions or assistance at 208-381-9500.
· Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands often, and disinfect high-touch surfaces.

Due to limited testing capacity and supplies, St. Luke’s is currently unable to accommodate asymptomatic testing except for those preparing for surgery or specific procedures. This includes common requests from asymptomatic patients for pre-employment, return-to-work, or travel purposes.

For more information on St. Luke's coronavirus response and services, click here.