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January 23, 2022

County health officials: avoid the ER unless seriously ill

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Santa Cruz County public health officials are asking that anyone with asymptomatic or mild coronavirus cases—or other non-serious illnesses—stay home and avoid unnecessary trips to already burdened hospital emergency departments.

The county also renewed its call for everyone eligible to get vaccinated or receive their booster shot if they have not already done so.

The public appeal comes as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads and Covid-19 cases and local hospitalizations increase, with people seeking treatment for mild Covid cases, as well as flu or other seasonal illness.

According to Santa Cruz County Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci, Covid-19 cases have increased here by 121% in the last 14 days. 

The rapid rate of infection indicates a winter surge whose effects may not arrive for several weeks, he said.

Most individuals who contract Covid-19, especially those who are vaccinated, do not need to visit the hospital’s emergency department, and can effectively recover from their illness at home, health officials say. These people can also seek primary care treatment or speak with their primary care provider.

People with severe Covid-19 symptoms such as significant difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, severe weakness or an elevated temperature that persists for days are among those who should consider seeking emergency medical care.

Those with mild to moderate symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose or body aches—or those who want a Covid-19 test—should consult an outpatient primary care provider. 

Ghilarducci says that unnecessary visits to hospital emergency departments put a strain on hospitals and frontline healthcare workers, and can also cause a delay in care for patients experiencing true medical crises and deplete of finite resources.

“The best defense against serious illness and hospitalization from Covid-19 is to get vaccinated,” he said. “If you have not gotten vaccinated or boosted and are eligible, please do so now. Do it for yourself, your family, and your community, including the health care workers we depend on to be there when we truly need emergency care.”


For information, including on where to get vaccinated or tested go to www.santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus or call 454-4242 between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.

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