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With surge in COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads, officials say don't go to the hospital with mild symptoms

Emergency Rooms
Posted at 3:09 PM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 16:00:33-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Health experts say tens of thousands of people have COVID-19, and it’s spreading rapidly.

“I used to test 10 patients and find two that tested positive now, and testing 10 patients, I got two that are negative,” said Dr. Ryan Light with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group.

The number of both probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state of Virginia have gone up.

Experts say symptoms are usually mild.

“Adults usually experience... it's a sore throat; tickle in the back of the throat, almost like a head cold; a little bit of body aches - a lot of times 24 hours just feeling fatigued,” said Dr. Light.

Experts say the Omicron variant is easily spread.

“Most likely it is COVID. If you're having any of those symptoms that are consistent with COVID out there right now [it's] because it is very rampant in population,” said Dr. Light.

But tests are hard to come by as many drug stores have run out.

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association issued a statement with the Virginia Health Department that said as the Omicron variant spreads and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, Virginia public health officials and hospitals leaders are urging individuals with asymptomatic or mild coronavirus cases or other non-serious illnesses to avoid unnecessary trips to already burdened hospital emergency departments.

They said 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. They said in many cases, a hospital emergency department is not the appropriate venue for patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms to seek medical care.

They said most people who contract coronavirus do not need to visit the hospital emergency department and can effectively recover from their illness at home or by seeking primary care treatment and/or speaking with their primary care provider.

They said people with severe COVID-19 symptoms such as significant difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, severe weakness or an elevated temperature that persists for days unabated are among those who should consider seeking emergency medical care for their condition.

They said individuals should not visit the emergency department if the symptoms of their illness are mild to moderate – including a cough, sore throat, runny nose, or body aches – or simply for the purpose of having a COVID-19 test administered. In those situations, people are encouraged to instead consult an outpatient primary care provider.

“The E.R. is not the best place to get tested; we can look at urgent cares. If you really think that you have it, go ahead and quarantine. It's just as easy to quarantine for the five days,” said Dr. Light.

As of Monday, January 3, there have been more than 2,600 hospitalizations in Virginia.

Julian Walker is the vice president of communications for Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

He said there have been five surges since the beginning of the pandemic and says we are currently in the second largest surge of hospitalizations.

“This continues to place a great strain on the healthcare delivery system and on the frontline caregivers who have been bravely battled in this pandemic for the better part of two years now,” said Walker.

Experts predict that the peak of the surge may take a few weeks.

Below is information directly from the CDC:

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for anyone in the general public who is exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious. These recommendations do not supersede state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, nor do they apply to healthcare workers for whom CDC has updated guidance.

Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC.

“The recommendation changed in order to prevent the U.S. economy from collapsing,” said Dr. Light.

Related: CDC recommends shorter COVID isolation, quarantine for all

He said this was a balance of medicine versus public safety versus still having ability to go to work.

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