SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Cruz County is in the middle of one of their biggest surges of COVID cases since the pandemic began and it is putting a strain on local hospitals.
Now officials are offering up a clear message: to help with the strain on the hospitals, unless you're really sick, don't go to the emergency room.
This recent surge of cases is something Santa Cruz County Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci says he's never seen before.
"We're now reaching the peak that we had last winter, last January of 2021 which was probably the most severe strain on the healthcare system in recent memory," Dr. Ghilarducci said.
The difference he says this year is the intense rate of the spike: a 121% increase in cases in the last 14 days.
The county is now urging the public to only come to the emergency room if absolutely necessary.
"We want to make sure that the emergency department can continue to serve those that are the sickest," Dr. Ghilarducci said. "When the emergency department gets overwhelmed with relatively minor cases, then that could actually interfere with the care of those who are real sick."
The county says they have seen an influx of people coming into the local emergency rooms for minor COVID symptoms or mild cases of the flu. Dr. Ghilarducci says mild complaints may end up waiting longer to see a doctor as well.
So, when do symptoms become so severe that you need to seek medical attention?
UCSF's Dr. Monica Gandhi says omicron has shown mostly mild symptoms, but there are key things to look out for.
"If your fevers are unremitting, they keep on going for more than three days, if you really feel faint, you just don't feel great and you have dizziness when up or you really have problems with your breathing, those are the symptoms that say okay, please go to the ER," Dr. Gandhi said.
But Dr. Ghilarducci says there's a way to avoid these symptoms and the E. Get vaccinated and boosted.
"You're 15 times less likely to end up in the hospital or even less likely to die if you're vaccinated," Dr. Ghilarducci said. "So do it now if you haven't done it yet."
The county says if you are experiencing mild symptoms start with your primary care doctor or an advice nurse.
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