Beckley, W.V. (WVNS) – Two weeks ago, we were in the midst of a post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID cases, and health experts say that due to more large gatherings and the highly contagious omicron variant, we may be heading for another spike following the holidays.

As COVID cases have risen, so has the need for open hospital beds. Jan Care Ambulances Director of Operations Paul Seamann said that in the past few weeks, their company has had to drive further and further out of state to get COVID patients the care they need.

“We’ve transported them all the way to Durham, to Cleveland Clinic,” explained Seamann. “We’re constantly going down to the Charlotte area. And so, what people really need to understand, Lexington, Pikeville, Kentucky, we go out of state several times a day and a lot of those patients are the COVID patients trying to get that high end ICU care.”

And that shortage of beds is bad news, especially as healthcare experts predict another surge in cases following Christmas and New Years. However, with more tests available at home and in the community, health care professionals hope to see less patients in severe need of hospital beds.

“Testing can now be done in the home and at different testing sites, and finding that out early is really critical,” said Seamann. “It’s also really critical for the whole health care system that the first step may not be the emergency department.”

“If you don’t have strong symptoms that you’re really struggling to breathe and things, then seek those other types of facilities and leave the emergency departments clear for those that are clearly ill.” Seamann said.

Healthcare professionals also warn the public that even though you may be vaccinated, you are still putting yourself at risk by attending large get-togethers.

“Particularly with these new strains that are coming out, the vaccination is a very good first step, but the social distancing and masks, those didn’t fall away just because of the vaccine.” Seamann told 59 News.