Need a COVID-19 test to see family during the holidays? Don’t go to the emergency room.

Philadelphia hospitals and the city Health Department encouraged city residents to get tested — anywhere but the ER — to avoid straining facilities that are already overwhelmed.

To find a test, the Health Department maintains a COVID-19 testing finder online at Additionally, many urgent care and doctors’ offices can test for COVID-19.

“We understand that people want to be safe when they gather with friends and family this Christmas,” city Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said in a statement. “And we’ve all seen how difficult it is to find testing throughout the region. But overwhelming the city’s emergency departments just so you can gather for the holiday is dangerous for everyone.”

Seeking COVID-19 testing in an ER diverts critical resources from people who are truly experiencing an emergency, officials and doctors said.

P.J. Brennan, chief medical officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said anyone experiencing such symptoms as shortness of breath or chest pain — which can be symptoms of COVID-19 and other critical illnesses — should call 911 or seek care in an emergency department.

“But people in need of testing should seek other sites,” Brennan said.

Said Rohit Gulati, chief medical officer of Einstein Healthcare Network: “There are better places to go when you’re feeling unwell but don’t need emergency care. The best place to go to or call is your primary care physician. Urgent care is another great choice.”

“Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen dramatic increases in visits to our emergency departments,” said Sharon Carney, chief clinical officer of Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic. “COVID-19 testing can and should be done at community sites or an urgent care. We ask our community to please not come for testing.”

“While we encourage testing prior to gatherings, if you do not have symptoms, do not come to the ER for COVID testing,” said Edmund deAzevedo Pribitkin, chief physician executive of Jefferson Health.