ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Health leaders at Albany-area hospitals spoke up on Friday to warn of a longer wait in emergency rooms around the Capital Region. Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners and Ellis Medicine say the community spread of COVID-19 is the reason.

“With the current positivity rate in the community, emergency departments are experiencing a capacity emergency,” said Dr. Steven Hanks, Chief Clinical Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Acting CEO for St. Peter’s Health Partners. “Between our current inpatient numbers and the surge in COVID cases, all of our area’s emergency departments are reporting longer wait times for patients seeking care. We understand that people are frustrated with the longer wait times and ask for their patience and respect for our health care providers.”

The group of leaders says that patients in need of non-emergency care should find routes other than the emergency room, including visiting their primary care physician or an offsite urgent care center operated by Albany Med, St. Peter’s or Ellis. Serious symptoms, such as high fever or breathing trouble, should still be met with a 911 call or a visit to the emergency room.

As coronavirus cases rise, hospitals are seeing coronavirus concerns bring more people to emergency rooms seeking testing. Hospitals are asking community members to go elsewhere to seek routine COVID symptoms, and to treat mild illness. That choice can make the difference and free up an emergency room bed for someone in life-threatening condition.

“Of course, all of our hospitals will treat anyone who walks into our Emergency Department doors,” said Dr. Michael Trevisani, Chief Medical Officer at Ellis Medicine. “For the patient, the ED is not always the ideal site for every health care need. Our physician offices, telehealth services and walk-in urgent care centers are equipped and more than capable of handling a wide range of non-emergency care needs.”