SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – Multiple central North Carolina hospital systems say they are treating the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic started.

Because of that, doctors are urging people to only visit the ER if they are experiencing immediate medical needs.

Dr. Rodney McCaskill, UNC Johnston Health chief medical officer said out of 150 beds across two hospitals in the county, half of those are COVID-19 cases. The rest are filled with other ill patients.

“For our specific hospital, we’ve had patient numbers higher than we’ve ever had before,” McCaskill said.

He said transfers from the Johnston County facilities to other, larger hospitals are hard to come by because of space constraints elsewhere.

“We’re having to take care of significantly sicker patients in our hospital without the ability to transfer them to university settings because the universities are all full,” McCaskill said.

If cases continue to rise, some ambulances may have to find somewhere else to go.

“We are having some discussions about potentially going on ambulance diversion for outside county ambulance traffic,” McCaskill said. “That’s probably going to happen because we just don’t have the ability to take care of additional sick patients.“

They are not alone.

Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville reported 140 COVID patients Monday alone.

“That’s the most patients we’ve seen through the whole Covid pandemic in a daily census,” Dr. Samuel Fleishman, Cape Fear Valley Health chief medical officer said.

He is asking people to use urgent care for non-life threatening illnesses.

“We want people to come to the emergency department that have acute emergencies and certainly people who are suffering with facial droop‘s, strokes, chest pain,” Fleishman said.