RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Days of hours-long lines, weather halting those same mass testing sites, and a steady rise in COVID-19 cases have people turning up where they shouldn’t.

The emergency department.

“Some people are really just coming for very mild symptoms and really for testing, and we would encourage those who really just need a test to go find a testing site and receive care in that environment so those that are very ill can come and receive emergency care in the emergency room,” said Duke Health critical care surgeon Dr. Lisa Pickett.

Picket added that Duke Health is seeing people with upper respiratory infections who are not ill enough to require hospitalization but want a COVID test.

“If you’re feeling short of breath, chest pain or other symptoms those are patients that should be coming to our emergency rooms and that will free us to have better ability to care for those patients,” she said.

Another challenge is that Duke Health is dealing with fewer staff members due to infection or exposure.

Pickett said they anticipated this and planned for it.

“We really tried hard to match available staff with procedures, operations, etc that really were urgent and needed to be done with staff who were available to do that and beds to put them in that are staffed. You expect after a holiday there’s a lag of several days and then you’ll see the rate of positivity and a few days later the rate of hospitalizations. Some models predict we are about a week from our peak numbers which would coincide with our New Year’s holiday so unfortunately, we haven’t gotten to the worst yet,” said Pickett.

A week away from the expected infection post-holiday peak people are reminded that more than 90 percent of COVID-19 ICU patients at Duke Health are unvaccinated and the very sickest of those folks are 100 percent unvaccinated.

The message remains: get the shot, get boosted, wear a mask.

“The more we can get past this and back to our normal operations the better job we can do of keeping our community healthy.”