By Andria Borba

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Healthcare workers have been under tremendous pressure since the COVID pandemic began as it has led to hospitals being flooded with new patients. And with untimely staffing shortages, nurses are working harder than ever before.

It’s not your imagination, it seems like everyone is catching this post-holiday wave of omicron variant-driven COVID-19.

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“Now we are inundated,” said emergency room nurse Allison Smith. “We have longer wait times, we have no beds.

Smith works at two Bay Area hospitals and says pre-holidays, there seemed to be a sort of equilibrium inside the ER – very sick, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

With omicron spreading rapidly, Smith says the demographic has changed. “We are seeing lots of really young, healthy people coming in with very mild symptoms of COVID and it’s making our backup even more backed up.”

Smith says they are typically all vaccinated, but, “Not all of them need to be there. Omicron is another variant of COVID. Even if you’re vaccinated, you’re going to have mild symptoms, you’re gonna have a cough, you’re gonna have a fever, you’re gonna have body aches, you’re gonna feel really crummy. But you don’t need to come to the emergency department.”

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If you have chest pains, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, Smith says absolutely get to an ER.

She says the flood of milder cases are extending wait times for everyone.

“We were already dealing with shortages, we’re dealing with not having enough hospital beds. There’s just not enough room,” said Smith. “It’s not just that there is not enough room for COVID patients. There’s not enough room for your heart attacks, for your strokes, your motor vehicle accidents, your trauma patients.”

Many Bay Area hospitals have once again put a pause on elective procedures in the wake of the latest surge.

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Smith says she and many of her colleagues are thinking about leaving the bedside after nearly two years of the pandemic. “There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight and I think that that’s the hard part.”