COLUMBUS (WCMH) – As COVID-19 pushes hospitals to their limits, doctors want the public to know there are ways they can help.

Just like other hospitals, emergency rooms are busier than usual. Doctors have some reminders about when to use the emergency departments.

People might not think one person’s choice can help the hospitals, but if more and more people make that choice, OhioHealth Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo said it can help overrun hospitals.

“It would help us in the hospitals, ERs, not to have people going there if it’s really not an emergency,” Gastaldo said.

Emergency departments regularly see patients for many situations that are not considered to be emergencies, and that’s still happening.

Gastaldo said that’s more problematic right now because of the high number of COVID-19 patients the hospitals are also dealing with.

“If you look at our COVID patients in the hospital, we are still in an upward trajectory,” he said. “We are still going up. We have not peaked. We have not plateaued. We have not come down. Our COVID census is still on the surprise.”

Gastaldo is reminding people to only use the ERs for emergencies, symptoms like chest pain, trouble breathing, and other life-threatening situations.

“Bed capacity is tight,” he said. “Things are very much crowded in the hospital and obviously that does include the emergency departments.”

Gastaldo is urging those with runny noses or non-severe rashes to consider a primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic.

“That really allows us more bed capacity to really take care of people who have a true emergency, the automobile accident, the heart attack, the stroke, the patient who’s transferred here from hundreds of miles away,” Gastaldo said. “Any type of lost capacity, where we can take nurses and doctors away from minor things to really put them in what’s most important, really helps us out.”

Gastaldo added the emergency room is not the place for patients to receive COVID tests when they are not showing severe symptoms, a sentiment he first discussed last week.

“If it’s not anything life-threatening, if it could wait to be seen by your primary care physician or an urgent care, that really helps us at the level of the hospital and the emergency department,” he said.