RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As coronavirus cases continue to spike across Virginia, hospitals are experiencing an influx of patients seeking emergency care for mild COVID symptoms.

Health leaders are now urging those people to avoid the emergency room, saying hospital staff and emergency departments are already burdened with cases.

In a joint statement, the VDH and VHHA said “most individuals who contract coronavirus can effectively recover from their illness at home, or by seeking primary care treatment.”

The agencies add that unnecessary trips can delay care for patients experiencing a true emergency, and deplete finite resources like testing kits, and PPE.

So, when is a hospital visit necessary?

Doctors say under extreme circumstances like difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, or elevated temperatures.

The most common COVID symptoms including a cough, runny nose, sore throat, and body aches can be treated outside of the hospital.

Currently, Virginia is in its fifth surge of the pandemic with 2,101 patients hospitalized with COVID. That’s up from 922 patients on Dec 1., a 128% jump

Health officials believe the peak of this latest surge may not arrive until several weeks after the holiday season ends, making it likely that its true impact on public health and the health care delivery system is yet to be fully felt.

In the meantime, doctors continue to push for the vaccine and booster shot, saying it is proven to prevent severe illness. 

Data continues to show that the majority of patients currently hospitalized in Virginia for COVID-19 care are unvaccinated.