Cook Children’s ER overwhelmed by parents seeking COVID-19 tests for their kids

Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth said its emergency room is getting overwhelmed by the number of young patients needing a COVID-19 test.

The problem is putting a strain on hospital staff and leading to longer wait times in the ER, as well as some urgent care centers.

The hospital wants to get a message out to parents. If you think your child may have been exposed to COVID-19, and you want them tested, the best method is with an at-home test.

RELATED: US government’s COVID-19 website to suspend free at-home tests

Most pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices can also test children.

Cook Children’s said it saw 614 patients in the ER on Monday. That’s nearly double what it sees during a typical day.

The hospital saw a similar flood of patients last year shortly after kids went back to school.

"Kids are back together. There are runny noses. There are fevers. You’re not really sure. Is this COVID? Is this not?" said Dr. Angela Moemeka with Mark 9 Pediatrics. "So, we’ve been adding a lot of reassurance, a lot of asking them to test at home and the supporting them if they need to come in."

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Cook Children’s said its urgent care centers are also experiencing a flood of people wanting COVID-19 tests that could be better handled elsewhere.

The ER should only be used when there are actual COVID-19 symptoms present such as trouble breathing, confusion, persistent chest pain and trouble staying awake, the hospital said.

Of the children who were brought in to Cook Children’s for a COVID-19 test on Monday, about 23% are positive.