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VDH urges people to avoid emergency departments for non-serious illnesses

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Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 1:15 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 6:14 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As COVID-19 cases continue to climb due to the Omicron variant, the Virginia Department of Health is issuing a plea for Virginians.

In a release, Virginia public health officials and hospital leaders are urging individuals with mild coronavirus cases or other non-serious illnesses to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.

VDH says that hospitals across Virginia have seen an increase in patients seeking emergency department care for relatively mild COVID-19 cases, as well as cases of the flu or other seasonal illnesses.

“Basically, in the past month, we’ve gone from 922 hospitalizations on Dec. 1 for COVID-19 to more than 2,100 hospitalizations as of Thursday, so that’s a 128 percent increase in about a month,” Julian Walker, with Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, said.

Individuals with mild COVID-19 symptoms can recover at home or seek treatment and/or speak with their primary care provider.

“People are coming in for mild illness or mild symptoms. Whether it’s COVID-19 or the flu or another season illness or people coming in just saying, ‘I can’t find a COVID test anywhere else or at my local pharmacy, can you give me a COVID test? And, unfortunately, what that does is add a lot of strain and burden on a system that already dealing with a lot of strain and burden,” Walker said.

On the other hand, people with severe COVID-19 symptoms, such as significant difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, severe weakness, or an elevated temperature that persists for days, should consider seeking emergency medical care.

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. spoke about the recent surge and recommendations to alleviate healthcare workers’ burden.

“The best defense against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. If you have not gotten vaccinated or boosted and are eligible, please do so now. Do it for yourself, your family, and your community, including the health care workers we depend on to be there when we truly need emergency care,” Oliver said.

VDH says Virginia is in a fifth coronavirus surge since the pandemic began; the peak of this latest surge may not arrive until several weeks after the holiday season.

“Again, what we’re just looking at is precedent in saying that if this pattern mirrors patterns that we’ve seen before - including the pattern that we saw last year in and around the holiday period - the expectation would be that these numbers may climb for another few weeks before they start to recede,” Walker said.

For more information or to see the full press release, click here.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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