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The American College of Emergency Physicians is urging all eligible Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and continue taking steps to protect themselves and others against the virus, amid a surge in the number of new cases, including cases of the highly-contagious delta variant.

After months of declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations are increasing all over the country, especially in states with low vaccination rates. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) this week urged every eligible American to get vaccinated and to continue taking the steps proven to protect people from COVID-19.

“The new wave of cases is largely from unvaccinated people who get the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19,” said Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Tragedy can be averted if we take steps to protect ourselves and each other. The vaccines offer strong protection against severe illness or death and are the best tools we have to get us closer to the end of this pandemic.”

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COVID-19 vaccination is now available to anyone 12 or older, and everyone who is eligible is being urged to get vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommend wearing masks when using public transit or when required by federal, state or local law, and following workplace or local business guidance, even for those who are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people are extremely vulnerable to the virus and variants, Rosenberg noted.

“It is concerning that people who are not vaccinated make up the majority of COVID hospitalizations today,” said Rosenberg. “It is especially difficult to see so many patients in their teens, 20s or 30s severely ill on ventilators. Most of these young people could have avoided the hospital entirely if they had the vaccine.”

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A surge in the number of COVID-19 cases is putting a strain on hospitals and emergency physicians in areas where the surge is outstripping resources.

As hospitals fill again, emergency physicians in hard-hit communities are voicing capacity concerns. When available beds are in short supply, the entire hospital relies on emergency physicians to treat or stabilize patients from other departments. Overcrowded hospitals can strain available resources and contribute to delays in care or other complications for patients. Protecting physician mental health also remains a concern as case rates in many communities rise again.

“Nobody wants to repeat the struggles of the past year and a half,” said Rosenberg. “The pandemic has been incredibly hard for everyone and the professionals who work on the frontlines are exhausted and at high risk of burnout. Emergency physicians are incredibly resilient, but we are human.”

Do not delay emergency care when it is necessary, the frontline physicians advise. Emergency physicians are ready to treat anyone any time they have a medical emergency and will continue to be a trusted source of information about vaccine safety and efficacy.

ACEP supports emergency department-based COVID vaccine programs and offers its members tools and resources to be vaccine advocates. They said emergency physicians know that the option to get a vaccine in the emergency department can be an important opportunity to protect patients and promote public health and safety.

“For many patients, an emergency physician might be their only interaction with the health care system,” said Rosenberg. “Emergency physicians will be there for you when need us most, no matter what. And we will continue to plead with everyone who will listen; talk to your physician about getting vaccinated.”