AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted “yes” to recommend COVID boosters for children as young as 12 years old. It comes at a time that emergency rooms are being overwhelmed and not just because a lot of staff are out sick with the virus.

Dr. Jose Vasquez, chief of infectious disease at AU Health in Augusta, said the problem in the ERs is not necessarily because of severe COVID illness.

He said many people are going to the ER to be tested for COVID, even if they don’t have any symptoms or just have mild ones. Vasquez emphasized that people need to utilize other ways to get tested, calling using the ER as a testing site irresponsible.

“If you want to get tested, don’t go to the ER. That’s really a very, very bad thing to do for an ER that’s overloaded. We are in respiratory tract infection season besides COVID. We are seeing influenza. We are seeing community-acquired pneumonias. We are seeing a lot of other viruses.”

Vasquez believes that despite the overcrowding and understaffed hospitals, omicron may actually be a good thing.

The omicron variant is a very mild form of the virus and many only experience moderate flu-like symptoms.

Vasquez joked that this mutation is the form of coronavirus to get. The unvaccinated are far more likely to get it than the vaccinated, though they are getting it, too.

Vasquez believes the fact that this is such a mild form of the virus may help downgrade this pandemic and bring us back to a more “normal way of life. He predicts that may happen by summer.

He said that because omicron is spreading so quickly he wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing 2 million new cases a day. Vasquez explained that the quick spreading, highly contagious variant will immunize people who are not vaccinated and just increase the immunization in people who are.

“It may be that omicron what we’re talking about which is the herd immunity. Even the folks that have been unvaccinated get omicron, get a mild disease, get some antibodies and that kind of closes the target for the virus, right? Versus all the folks that have not gotten anything. So, it’s a possibility that omicron actually is a gift, if you will.”

Vasquez said that despite the potential for herd immunity with this variant, people should still be vaccinated, get their booster shots after five months now, and take all necessary precautions to stay healthy.

He wants to remind people that just because omicron is here, it doesn’t mean that delta isn’t still around.