Officials are pleading with the public to avoid unnecessary ER visits.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia health officials say some rural hospitals have reached their critical bed capacities as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge statewide.

They are pleading with the public to avoid unnecessary ER visits to let hospitals focus their resources on treating COVID-19 patients.

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There were 813 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide Wednesday, just below the record 818 on Jan. 5 when vaccination efforts were starting. There are 252 virus patients in ICUs and 132 patients on ventilators, according to state data — both all-time highs.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus expert, says “our hospitals are being stressed in ways that they haven’t been stressed before.”

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In southern West Virginia, Princeton Community Hospital has no ICU beds available due to an increase in COVID-related patients.

But hospital president and CEO Karen Bowling says people with emergency needs should still come to the hospital. Incoming patients will stay in the emergency department until a bed becomes available, either at the hospital or somewhere else.

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