RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)–The threat of a twindemic is bringing new urgency to local health leaders as COVID-19 and flu cases are on the rise in Virginia.

Richmond hospitals are asking people to not rely on their emergency rooms as a public testing site and also warn that urgent care centers and emergency rooms are overwhelmed.

The high demand for COVID-19 testing is leading to a shortage of tests and long lines at urgent care centers. This could be seen at the KidMed in Mechanicsville on Friday, where people filled up the parking lot.

“We’re testing a lot of kids because oftentimes the symptoms for the flu and COVID are similar,” said Dr. Jeff Bennett, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at KidMed.

He said their urgent care center has been swamped with up to 150 patients every day, recently. The consistent crowd of patients has been forcing them to close early, but staff have been staying office until 11 p.m. in order to treat everyone.

“We’re losing good providers and nurses and patient care techs and X-ray techs in droves because they’re over this,” he said.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported more than 13,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. Dr. Bennett said the omicron variant is more contagious than the two previous variants but comes with milder symptoms.

“The vaccinated kids are doing extremely well, even the unvaccinated kids are doing largely well,” he said.

Cat Long, with the VDH, said it’s another virus that people should also pay attention to this winter.

“We’ve seen widespread flu transmission this week and that’s been true in Virginia over the past four weeks or so, for context for folks during this time last year we didn’t see any flu activity,” Long said.

She said nearly 700 cases of the flu have been reported across Virginia so far this season. The difference is last year, the tighter safety measures against COVID-19 also helped prevent the flu.

“People are starting to get out and spend more time in person with each other,” Long said.

Health leaders are urging people to monitor mild symptoms at home and to only visit the emergency room or urgent care centers when experiencing extreme symptoms like severe shortness of breath and persistent high fever.