KSAT Q&A: Infectious diseases doctor explains what you should do after showing COVID-19 symptoms to avoid unneccessary ER visits

Dr. Ruth Berggren, with UT Health San Antonio, says many people heading to ER, tying up resources for those with severs symptoms

SAN ANTONIO – As coronavirus cases surge across the country because of the fast-spreading omicron variant, Bexar County is also seeing a spike in new cases.

Metro Health’s COVID-19 website reported 733 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total number of new cases to 2,942 so far this week. That includes 957 new cases Monday, 828 on Tuesday, and 424 on Wednesday.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist with UT Health San Antonio, joined the KSAT Q&A on Thursday to discuss the latest rise in omicron COVID-19 cases and what people should do before seeking help at an emergency room.

“We’re seeing surges, and the positivity rate at the university is as high as we’ve ever seen it, with 31.5% of the people being tested coming back positive. So this is largely omicron at this point,” Berggren told anchor Stephania Jimenez during the Q&A on Thursday’s 6 O’Clock News. “And people have gotten the message that Omicron is highly infectious, more infectious than delta, but less lethal, and that is true.”

There are 352 patients in area hospitals, with 70 in the ICU and 30 on ventilators, according to Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council hospital data on the Metro Health COVID-19 website. There are 10% of staffed beds available and 67% of ventilators available in our area hospitals.

See more of today’s COVID-19 statistics and city resources for the public here. Note: The city’s dashboard is temporarily using data provided by the CDC’s National Electronic Disease Surveillance System until Jan. 3.

Berggren said many people are heading to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms, making it harder for some with more severe emergencies to get help.

“Omicron is causing a huge number of people to come to the emergency room to be evaluated. Up to a third of the adults that are coming into the University Hospital emergency room right now are coming in because of COVID-like symptoms. Very few of them are getting admitted,” she said.

Berggren says those who have COVID-19 symptoms should try to get an at-home test or one through a public testing site or a primary care office before heading to an emergency room.

“Put a mask on, and don’t take that mask off when you’re around other people until or unless you have a confirmed negative test result,” she said. “So you can do a lot of good before going to the emergency room by trying to discern whether you have COVID or not.”

Berggren stressed that ERs are for people who are really sick and need immediate help.

“By that, we mean having shortness of breath, having difficulty breathing, very high fevers, and people with those symptoms who also have underlying health conditions that put them at high risk for a bad outcome,” she said. “Those people are the ones that need to be in the emergency room. That’s who we’re there for, and we want to take care of you. But if you’re not having those serious symptoms, you’re better off getting care from your primary care doctor and also seeking a COVID test in the community.”

No Appointment Needed! Here is the upcoming Metro Health Alamodome and hosted pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic hours...

Posted by San Antonio Metro Health on Tuesday, December 28, 2021


About the Authors

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio for four years. Using his graduate degree in business from UTSA, he developed "Money: It's Personal," a weekly series that airs on GMSA at 9 on Tuesdays. The series breaks down personal finance topics into easy explainers. Before living in SA, Ivan covered border news in the Rio Grande Valley.

Stephania Jimenez is an anchor on The Nightbeat. She began her journalism career in 2006, after graduating from Syracuse University. She's anchored at NBC Philadelphia, KRIS in Corpus Christi, NBC Connecticut and KTSM in El Paso. Although born and raised in Brooklyn, Stephania considers Texas home. Stephania is bilingual! She speaks Spanish.

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