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Navigating emergencies during a pandemic: Should I go to the ER or urgent care?

Body, COVID-19, Emergency Services

During the COVID-19 pandemic, is it safe to go to your local emergency room if you need to? And when should you go to urgent care or utilize virtual visits with your doctor or nurse practitioner?

Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about navigating urgent medical needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is the emergency room or urgent care safe from COVID-19?

Our clinics and hospital are safe, operational, and prepared to handle health emergencies as well as coronavirus cases. Adventist Health Portland isolates suspected COVID-19 patients to keep our other patients and health care professionals safe.

We have plans and processes in place to effectively care for patients with infectious diseases, including COVID-19, with little risk to other patients or our staff. We closely follow CDC protocols and works with local public health departments to ensure our hospitals and clinics are safe and ready when emergencies happen.

Emergencies don’t pause for COVID-19

You have every right to wonder if it’s safe to visit our ER, hospital and clinics. Each location is taking extraordinary steps to keep every patient safe from coronavirus. At the ER, you can trust we are:

  • Screening all incoming patients for coronavirus symptoms
  • Separating patients who might have COVID-19
  • Requiring masks for everyone age 2 and older
  • Keeping patients physically distanced in lobbies and other common areas
  • Cleaning and disinfecting thoroughly and frequently

Rest easier knowing all Adventist Health Portland facilities are safe and ready to provide you the best care. We even offer virtual primary, specialty and urgent care visits if you feel more comfortable at home. Call your clinic directly or call 503-261-6929 to request an appointment.

When should I go to the emergency room?

Go to the emergency room for problems that can’t wait, such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe bleeding or trauma
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of or blurred vision
  • High, uncontrolled fever
  • Head injuries
  • Burns
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Broken bones

When should I go to urgent care?

Visit urgent care for urgent problems that aren’t life-threatening but still need attention, such as:

  • Coughs, colds, and sore throat
  • Sprains and strains
  • Rashes or skin irritations like sunburn
  • Minor burns
  • Ear infections and sinus infections
  • Minor cuts and lacerations

Be sure to check our current urgent care wait times and save your spot in line before coming in.

When should I use virtual visits?

Specialties offering virtual visits vary by location. Check with your doctor to find out if virtual visits are available.

Some specialties currently offered via virtual visits include behavioral health, cardiology, primary care, family medicine, urgent care, and more. Visit for a complete list.

Still not sure?

If you are not sure which location is best suited for your condition and you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

If you are home and experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and have been in contact with someone who likely has an active coronavirus infection, we encourage you to call your primary care physician or clinic before arriving.

Most importantly, don’t wait

We are here for you with whole-person care that’s safe no matter what the pandemic throws at us. Thank you for being in this together with us.