Virginia health officials urging people with mild COVID cases to avoid emergency room

If you’re slightly under the weather and have COVID-19, you don’t need to go to the emergency room, you need to go home and get better.

That’s the message Virginia’s Department of Health and its hospital leaders are telling the influx of residents who are showing up to ERs with mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 — as well as those who have the flu or other seasonal illnesses.

“It’s crucial for community members to seek the appropriate level of care, ensuring that emergency rooms are reserved for emergencies,” said Steve Arner, the chair of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.



People with severe COVID symptoms — difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, severe weakness or a persistent fever that stretches for days — are those who should seek out emergency care.

But when others show up to the ER with a cough, sore throat, runny nose or body aches, VDH said they are taking resources away from others who are experiencing a real medical crisis.

By and large, the people who are experiencing these symptoms can recover at their house.

The state said that it is in the midst of its fifth coronavirus surge since the pandemic set in back in March 2020.

The commonwealth recently eclipsed 1 million total COVID cases and has documented more than 51,564 new infections since Dec. 24, according to VDH. The state said that COVID hospitalizations have risen from 922 on Dec. 1 to 2,101 as of Dec. 30, a 128% increase in that span.

The good news? Hospitalizations are still below a similar peak witnessed last winter, thanks to the advent of multiple types of vaccines. VDH said most of the people currently hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated.

“The best defense against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” State Health Commissioner Norm Oliver said. “If you have not gotten vaccinated or boosted and are eligible, please do so now.”

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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