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The crowded conditions at some Inland Empire hospitals are generating concern as officials get ready for the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

While hospitals are in better shape now than they were during last winter’s COVID-19 surge, Riverside and San Bernardino counties are seeing a higher rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations than other areas of Southern California.

Some smaller hospitals have requested tents and portable medical facilities to help keep up with demand. And wait times for ambulances to get patients into hospitals have been at record highs in some locations — a problem that has persisted since the summer.

Officials are urging people to avoid emergency rooms unless there’s a severe problem, and to rely on urgent care centers for problems like sprained ankles.

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