We can and should do everything in our power to relieve the burden on our local health care systems as they endure another surge in COVID-19 cases. As we approach the pandemic’s two-year mark, everyone is growing weary of the precautions we’re being asked to take but the daily nuisance the average citizen experiences pales in comparison to the physical and mental stress that medical professionals have faced with each new wave of infection.

Taking those actions can be as simple as choosing the right place to address medical needs to scheduling routine medical care, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recently noted.

While surgeries and other medical procedures were canceled in the early days of the pandemic, health experts stress that maintaining regular care is key to identifying potential illnesses early and making them more manageable.

When seeking that kind of care or addressing other ailments—cold or flu, sprains, minor burns, animal bites, allergies and more—residents are urged to reach out to a primary care or urgent care provider. Often, they are the ideal place, along with pharmacies, to get a COVID-19 test too.

Taking this approach frees up emergency department staff to better handle life-threatening emergencies like heart attacks, strokes, broken bones, severe chest pain, head injuries, choking, severe respiratory distress, serious burns and uncontrolled bleeding. Anyone experiencing these kind of injuries should not hesitate to call 911 or head to the nearest hospital.

Finally, although some residents are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, studies continue to show that the shot is safe and shown to be effective at keeping recipients from getting seriously ill from the virus. Statistics from the last year continue to show that the vast majority—80-plus percent in all categories—of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths were among individuals not fully vaccinated.

In the new year, let’s do all we can to stay safe and healthy.