ST. LOUIS — With COVID cases still high in the St. Louis area, emergency room leaders say they're struggling to keep up with patient loads. One way you can help: check out other resources if you need a simple COVID swab.
Pandemic task force hospitals are still seeing about 70 daily COVID admissions. But there are hundreds -- if not thousands more -- who come through and are released or admitted for other reasons.
The big crowds are especially concerning as they prepare for flu season after the illness was virtually nonexistent last fall and winter.
"When you combining more interactions, more people getting together, and less immunity built up over the last year, we do have a concern that it could be a very bad flu season," Steve Lawrence, MD, Washington University infectious disease specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, said.
Places like pharmacies, doctor's offices, and local health departments would likely save you time.
Your best protection against serious COVID complications is still a vaccine.
"The vaccine has been a game-changer in terms of who is becoming seriously ill," Lawrence said. "All of our evidence -- even now many months after the vaccine -- has been wildly available are continuing to show that they provide outstanding protection versus a serious illness."
About 40% of people in the St. Louis metropolitan area are fully vaccinated against coronavirus. But the unvaccinated make up 82% of patients hospitalized with COVID in task force hospitals.