As omicron spreads, local hospitals hope for best, prepare for worst

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 11:40 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus are now confirmed in at least 17 states, and Georgia is one of them.

So far, all of the cases are mild with no deaths attributed to this new strain.

But as the variant spreads, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it.

And with holiday travel ramping back up, local health officials are looking ahead.

The highest number of COVID-19 inpatients reported by University Hospital during the 2020 holiday season was 149.

In September during the delta variant outbreak, the number peaked at 167.

That number has since dropped to 27.

We don’t know much yet about the omicron variant or how much impact it’s having.

“It’s still so early in this wave,” said Barry Jenkins, chief medical officer at University Hospital.

Based on data from South Africa, the new variant spreads and mutates faster than earlier versions. But how dangerous is it?

“Current data would suggest with increased vaccination and communitywide immunity and potentially less severe disease” that we may not see such a big problem this time around, Jenkins said.

Meanwhile, the delta variant has not gone away.

“As temperatures cool down, families gathering, I think there’s definitely some risks that delta itself drives an increase,” he said.

When it comes to the possibility of a surge, University Hospital is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

“We certainly hope we don’t get to that point again, but we track that every day so we can react immediately in case we see that need arise,” said Jenkins.

Since the last holiday season and the delta surge, they’ve learned more about treatment, while immunity has increased. But the pandemic is still ongoing.

Jenkins urges anyone with COVID symptoms this holiday season to avoid family gatherings and take all the precautions we’ve heard about to help reduce the spread.

“It’s certainly not a time to turn our backs on it and let our guard down,” he said. “I think we all just need to be very mindful that this is not over.”

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