By Elizabeth Klinge

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento County health leaders asking some people to stop coming into the emergency room if they don’t need to.

Local emergency rooms are seeing record numbers of patients amid this Covid-19 omicron surge.

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It’s a challenge made worse by a growing problem: people coming into emergency departments who don’t belong there.

“if it’s a Covid test, if it’s a vaccine, if its’ really a minor health issue, the emergency room is not the best place for you,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the Sacramento County Public Health Officer. She added, “At one point, we would perhaps have 40 walk-ins to get tested. At the same time, we’re getting people who have strokes, who have heart attacks, who are in car accidents.”

Dr. Kasirye says nearly 25% of patients using ERs only have mild symptoms – or are just looking for a Covid-19 test.

“Make sure that they reserve the ER as well as 9-1-1 for the emergency situations only,” Dr. Kasirye said.

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So what kind of problem does this pose for hospitals?

“They have to be triaged, they have to be seen, they have to be assessed, and what that does it takes up a lot of time and resources when we’re seeing unprecedentedly high numbers of Covid patients and people that really need that emergent care,” Dr. Kasirye said.

Covid-19 testing is offered by many local organizations and home kits, and health care workers say most people can treat their mild symptoms like a cold or flu. They say hospitals should only be used for critical care.

“We want to make sure that emergency rooms are there for the people that need it when they need it,” Dr. Kasirye said.

Covid-19 patients in Sacramento’s emergency rooms dropped slightly over the last week.

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Public health officials hope this could mean the omicron wave is starting to plateau and rates could soon go back down.

Elizabeth Klinge