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St. Louis hospitals are asking people to go elsewhere for COVID testing

Hospital administrators are trying to make the best use of their stretched resources.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis-area hospital systems are moving away from offering COVID-19 testing for people who do not show symptoms. Hospital systems have either suspended COVID testing for people without symptoms, or they are at least asking patients to seek other resources.

SSM Health officials tell 5 On Your Side they're not suspending testing for people who are asymptomatic, but they are asking people not to come to the emergency room to get tested.

SSM St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles ER Medical Director Dr. Benjamin Leacock said, “It gets in the way of us seeing the patients who are truly sick, like people who have heart attacks or people who are having a stroke. It just overwhelms us."

Instead, SSM is asking people to seek other means of testing and referring people to community resources, unless they are seriously ill.

Leacock said, “Feeling short of breath going down the hallway - that would be a more serious symptom. When you're throwing up so much you can't keep water down - that would be more severe. Or if you're so fatigued that you can't get around your house, that’s serious."

It comes at a time when the pandemic task force, Saturday, announced new records when it comes to hospital admissions and confirmed COVID-positive hospitalizations.

According to new data, 1,219 COVID patients were in area hospitals as of Saturday.

In an email to patients, Friday, BJC officials announced they are suspending testing for anyone without symptoms, including testing for travel, events, exposures, or return to work or school. The email reads, "Due to the large number of patients in our hospitals right now, it's important to keep non-emergency cases out of the ERs and Convenient Care sites so our team members can focus on sick patients."

Mercy officials say they are considering suspending the offering of COVID testing, saying "physicians will evaluate patients based on need and their clinical judgment."

Saturday’s Pandemic Task Force update indicated staffed bed hospital capacity is at 88%, in St. Louis. ICUs are at 81% of their total staffed bed capacity.