RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) — State health officials in Virginia are urging people who have mild coronavirus symptoms to avoid unnecessary trips to hospital emergency rooms.

Thursday’s request by the Virginia Department of Health is being made as the state enters its fifth coronavirus surge since the pandemic began.

State health officials say they’ve documented more than 50,000 new infections since Friday, Dec. 24. At the same time, daily COVID-19 hospitalizations jumped from 922 on Dec. 1 to 2,100 on Thursday, Dec. 30. That’s a 128% increase.

Health officials said hospitals are already feeling the strain. They said a hospital visit often isn’t appropriate for someone who has contracted the coronavirus and has mild or moderate symptoms. Most people can recover from home or contact their primary care doctor.

That said, patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms should seek emergency care. Those include significant difficulty breathing, intense chest pain, severe weakness, or an elevated temperature that persists for days.

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. is encouraging those who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine to do so. “The best defense against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. If you have not gotten vaccinated or boosted and are eligible, please do so now. Do it for yourself, your family, and your community, including the health care workers we depend on to be there when we truly need emergency care.”

VDH data continues to show that the majority of patients currently hospitalized in Virginia for COVID-19 care are unvaccinated.