NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Doctors from the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters want to remind parents to think twice before bringing their child to the emergency department or urgent care centers as locations fill up during this surge from the coronavirus omicron variant.

CHKD’s emergency department and urgent cares aren’t at capacity, but they’re overwhelmed with worried parents as more kids get sick this winter.

Children’s Medical Group Medical Director Dr. Doug Mitchell says even though pediatric cases and hospitalizations are high, COVID-19 isn’t the only virus going around.

“That’s the importance of vaccinating for both flu and COVID. They are both out there. Any symptom, any fever, keeps a kid home from school,” he said.

With half of this school year left, he says schools aren’t fueling this latest surge.

“Would I blame it on schools? No, I don’t blame it on schools because we’ve shown over the period of time that kids are actually safer in schools,” said Mitchell. “They’re less likely to acquire it in the school setting than they are in the community.”

He says low vaccination rates among children are the main culprit as to why it’s spreading quickly among kids, with roughly three in 10 kids testing positive, and recommends vaccinating children against the flu as well as COVID-19.

“The best way to protect the kids is vaccination and masking,” he said. “We know those two things work and we know they decrease the risk of infection. And we know they decrease the risk of severe infection.”

Medical experts say there’s no need to get a test for your kid if they have no COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, but when in doubt:

“Listen to the parent’s intuition. Listen to your gut. You know how your child is. You know whether they’re mildly ill or severely ill,” said Mitchell.

If your child is experiencing severe symptoms, don’t hesitate to call 911 if you can’t get into an urgent care or see a pediatrician.

CHKD also released a statement about the recent surge of people seeking care within their health care system.

CHKD’s emergency department and Urgent Care centers are extremely busy, but not at capacity. CHKD’s main hospital is also not at capacity. We are still accepting patients. We encourage patients to seek care through their pediatrician, urgent care, emergency department or 911 depending on the severity of the situation.

Both the emergency department and our urgent care centers are receiving an extremely high volume of patients, and our pediatric practices are handling a large number of phone calls from parents seeking information on COVID testing. We are working diligently to answer all calls and ask for patience as we work to provide the care and information parents and children need.  

At the same time, we want to remind parents that children who have no symptoms or exposure do not need tests, and that emergency departments should be reserved for sick patients.  

Children who have mild symptoms are best cared for by their primary care doctors, or, if they are unable to get an appointment, in an urgent care setting. Children who have exposures but no symptoms can be tested at alternative testing sites using this Virginia Department of Health link.

As always, if your child has a severe illness or has trouble breathing, call 911.

Elizabeth Earley, CHKD