ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As COVID cases increase and emergency rooms get crowded, a local hospital is asking to check your symptoms first to see where you need to go for care. Albany County reported on Thursday the second consecutive day of daily infections above 400.

St. Peter’s Health Partners is urging the community to start with their primary care provider or local urgent care for COVID testing and diagnosis. Patients with mild symptoms are asked to not utilize busy emergency departments. 

“Testing is so widespread right now, and resources are so precious in terms of our ability to care for people of higher levels of illness,” said Dr. Jonathan Halpert.

Dr. Halpert is the Principal and Chief Medical Officer at Priority 1 Urgent Care in Guilderland.

He says testing supplies haven’t been the issue for them, but rather it has been not enough staff to see the increased number of patients.

“We did 80 tests in seven hours. That’s a lot of people coming in. We had three people handling registration, telephones, paperwork, physically doing the swabs, and getting things sent and processed to the laboratory.”

Crowded urgent cares with packed parking lots are having a domino effect on hospitals. Dr. Thea Dalfino says emergency room waits can be many hours long.

“We need to save the emergency departments for the patients that are really sick, who need urgent and emergent care.”

Dr. Dalfino is the chief medical officer for Acute Care at St. Peter’s Health Partners. She says there are certain symptoms you should go to the emergency room for.

“Patients who have chest pain, shortness of breath, severe dehydration, confusion, or prolonged fevers should go to the hospital and get tested,” said Dr. Dalfino.

One upside, as more people are getting tested, Dr. Dalfino says hospitalizations are not increasing because doctors say more people are vaccinated. But with the Omicron variant being so contagious, Dr. Dalfino suggests a safe way to ring in the New Year. 

“As much as you want to see your family and friends, have a quiet New Year at home and you will have a healthy 2022.”