Source: Cullen McCue

Vermont’s emergency rooms are being overwhelmed by COVID patients who are displaying little to not symptoms, according to a report from WCAX. One hospital affected is the Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC), which has been overwhelmed with asymptomatic patients. The Vermont Hospital Association says it’s hearing similar stories from other parts of the state.

RRMC medical director Dr. Rick Hildebrant said patients have been testing positive with rapid tests then flocking to the emergency room in search of PCR tests.

Hildebrant says those who are asymptomatic and receive a positive antigen test should not go to a hospital and should reach out to their primary care provider instead. He urged Vermonters to only go to an emergency room if their symptoms are severe. “It’s not so much the beds that are the precious resource, it’s the staff at this time. So we have to have some of our clinical staff providing care to those people and they can’t provide care to the folks in the ER,” Hildebrant explained.

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Vermont has been witnessing a large spike in COVID cases despite having the nation’s highest vaccination rate by population percentage. According to data from the Mayo Clinic, 76.8% of Vermonters are classified as “fully vaccinated”, meaning they have received at least two doses of an mRNA two-dose vaccine.

Since Thanksgiving, however, cases have been spiking in the state, reaching a peak of 694 new cases on December 5. Though case rates have declined since that date, they have remained higher than what they were in October.

Experts believe the current surge in ER visits stems from Omicron variant fears. Despite wide reports of increased transmissibility, milder symptoms have also been recorded in regards to Omicron when compared with past variants.

Massachusetts researchers recently found that the Omicron variant has several genetic similarities to the virus responsible for the common cold.