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With surge in COVID-19 cases, Raleigh County forms emergency committee to advise public

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) With the highest transmission rate in the nation, public health leaders say West Virginia is entering into a phase of rapid growth with the Delta variant that has the potential to overwhelm hospitals.

The situation is so severe in Raleigh County that hospitals, EMS, and the 911 center are collectively urging the public to only use the ER in true emergencies.

According to Raleigh County's Emergency Coordinator, John Zilinski, when local hospitals experience a surge in patients, as several in the region experienced last Friday, there is a trickle down effect.

"If the hospital gets inundated with walk-in ER people, this puts a wait time on at the hospital, which puts a wait time on the ambulances that arrive, which makes them less available to the rest of the county."

Ambulances that have to stay with patients outside the hospital cannot respond to other calls. Right now, Zilinski said the local emergency rooms are seeing a lot of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients with the potential to infect other at-risk patients.

"Self-evaluate. If you're not having symptoms and test positive, a trip to the ER may not be your best bet. Consider your primary care provider or other local health care providers rather than the ER."

While both Beckley hospitals are off a red alert after a surge in patients last Friday, Zilinski said the situation may only be temporary.

West Virginia's Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh said Wednesday that the Delta variant's presence in the Mountain State right now is a wildfire that has only started to spread.

"The Delta variant has entered that explosive growth phase where enough people who are unvaccinated are infected."

On Wednesday, West Virginia reached a record high of COVID-19 patients in the ICU at 252. The state also reported a record high of patients on ventilators at 132.

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Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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