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Hospital association urges those with mild COVID-19 cases to avoid hospital ERs

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The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association recommends COVID-19 vaccinations to help keep residents out of the hospital. 

As the Omicron variant spreads and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, a spokesman for the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association has asked that individuals with asymptomatic or mild coronavirus cases or other non-serious illnesses to avoid unnecessary trips to already burdened hospital emergency departments.

The VHHA press release states, “Hospitals across Virginia have recently experienced an influx of patients seeking emergency department care for asymptomatic or relatively mild COVID-19 infections, as well as cases of the flu or other seasonal illness. … Most individuals who contract coronavirus … can effectively recover from their illness at home, or by seeking primary care treatment and/or speaking with their primary care provider.”

The VHHA press release outlined the symptoms for which people should consider seeking emergency medical care: significant difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, severe weakness, or an elevated temperature that persists for days unabated.

Mild to moderate symptoms include a cough, sore throat, runny nose or body aches.

The press release emphasized: “Unnecessary visits to hospital emergency departments place great strain on hospitals and the front-line clinicians and caregivers who continue to bravely battle the pandemic. These visits can also cause a delay in care for patients experiencing a true medical crisis and contribute to the depletion of finite resources including medical staff, testing kits, personal protective equipment and therapeutic treatments.”

The press release said, “Virginia is in the midst of a fifth coronavirus surge since the pandemic began last year. The peak of this latest surge may not arrive until several weeks after the holiday season concludes, making it likely that its true impact on public health and the health care delivery system is yet to be fully felt.”

The press release pointed out that infections have spiked this month – the commonwealth recently eclipsed a million total COVID-19 cases and has documented 51,564 new infections since Dec. 24. Meanwhile, daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen from 922 on Dec. 1 to 2,101 as of today (Dec. 30), a 128% increase.

The VHHA spokesman said, “While these numbers are elevated, they remain below the peak hospitalization numbers Virginia encountered this time last year. That is thanks in part to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines. Data continues to show that the majority of patients currently hospitalized in Virginia for COVID-19 care are unvaccinated.”

While encouraging residents to get vaccinated, the press release concluded, “The available vaccines offer strong protection against illness from COVID-19. And for those who contract a breakthrough case of the virus after being vaccinated, the vaccine reduces the risk of serious illness that leads to hospitalization or death. Please visit vaccinate.virginia.gov, call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA, or visit vaccines.gov to learn more about getting vaccinated.”

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