Patients Seeking COVID Tests Crowding ERs, Urgent Care Clinics

As demand for COVID-19 testing soars along with numbers of new cases, people with mild symptoms – or none at all – are crowding already busy Las Vegas-area emergency rooms to be tested for the coronavirus.

University Medical Center and its Quick Care facilities are seeing significant numbers of these patients, “including many who are seeking testing rather than treatment for symptoms,” hospital CEO Mason Van Houweling said in an email on Monday. “In most cases, these patients can recover at home without medical care.”

In statement earlier in the day, Van Houweling urged community members to avoid visits for nonurgent medical needs. With the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus, the UMC sites “continue to experience significant increases in patient volumes,” which means longer wait times for those with nonemergency conditions, he said.

Demand overwhelms UNLV site

The call to steer clear of the ER for testing comes as waits for testing appointments grow longer, as do lines at Las Vegas’ lone mass testing site. The site at UNLV shut down early on Sunday night after administering 1,750 tests and reaching capacity, said a Clark County official. That was nearly 12 times to typical volume of nightly tests.

The drive-thru and walk-in site, which is in a UNLV parking lot off of Tropicana Avenue, shut down at 8 p.m., halfway through its normal 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. hours of operation. The site operates Sunday through Thursday.

A spokesperson for Clark County government, which operates the site, said local officials were evaluating whether there is a need for more testing sites or expanded hours of operation amid a surge of COVID-19 in the county.

“We are working with the Southern Nevada Health District and other partners to evaluate the community’s needs,” Clark County representative Stacey Welling said in an email. “There has been high demand at the drive-thru site at UNLV since last weekend.”

Last Sunday, the site administered more than 1,300 tests, far more than the usual nightly volume of 150 tests, Clark County Emergency Manager Billy Samuels said last week.

Demand has been heightened by a holiday closure of the UNLV site and long weekends with few options for getting a test. Many people are seeking testing to learn if they contracted the virus during holiday gatherings or travel.

Medical attention not required

Van Howeling said that patients who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms typically do not require medical attention unless they have risk factors for developing severe disease.

“Otherwise healthy people with mild or no symptoms should isolate at home, monitor their symptoms and seek medical care if their condition worsens,” he said.

MountainView Hospital in the northwest valley also is seeing patients anxious about the virus who don’t truly belong in the ER.

“By and large, we’re seeing a substantial number of patients with mild and asymptomatic disease and a very small number of severely ill patients” with COVID-19, said the hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Dominic Martinello.

“If they have mild symptoms that don’t seem dangerous, if they can get a test from an urgent care, community testing site (or) their primary care doctors, generally they’re going to be safe to do that.”

Patients without symptoms but who were exposed to COVID-19 generally should be going to testing centers, not the ER, he said.

Waiting times increase

The typical wait to get an appointment at a testing center is longer this week than last. A spot check late Monday morning of public testing sites in Clark County showed that many had no appointments available until next week.

Of 12 sites surveyed, eight had no appointments before at least next Monday. Three – the West Las Vegas and Enterprise libraries, and the Silver Springs Recreation Center – had their earliest appointments available on Thursday. One site – the Whitney library – had slots available for Friday. In contrast, a week ago many of the public sites had just a two-day wait for an appointment.

However, getting a test at one of these public sites in the next couple days is still possible. Many of the sites accept walk-ins as long as supplies last.

“While walk-ins are accepted, they are based on availability and might not be available at all sites,” health district representative Stephanie Bethel said in an email. “We encourage people seeking testing to check our website frequently for appointment availability.”

There also are waits for appointments at Las Vegas-area pharmacies. A spot check found no appointments available at Walgreens locations and no appointments available before next week at CVS locations.

Rapid tests that can be taken at home, which are sold at drug stories, also are in high demand and may sell out quickly.

A list of testing sites can be found on the health district’s website at, and on the state’s Nevada Health Response website at


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