‘Our most severe surge’: Ga. hospitals grapple with omicron

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 8:32 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - As more COVID-19 cases are reported across Georgia, more people are getting admitted to the hospital.

More than 25 percent of all inpatients in Georgia hospitals are being treated for the coronavirus, a number that hasn’t been seen since September. As of Thursday, 4,423 people were in hospitals across the state with COVID-19.

In the Georgia portion of the CSRA, there were 228 COVID inpatients at hospitals as of Thursday. That was up from 213 the day before and 149 a week earlier, but still far below the 398 on Sept 7 during the peak of the delta variant surge.


“We’re in the midst of our most severe surge that we’ve experienced,” said Dr. Robert Jansen, Grady Health System’s Chief Medical Officer.

He said the hospital is seeing a record number of people requiring admission.

“At one time a few days ago, we had 100 people in the emergency department awaiting beds upstairs and that’s just an untenable situation; we could not take any more patients at that time,” said Jansen.

“It has really stressed us to the limit. We have more patients now than we have ever had any one point in time.”

Some hospitals will soon be getting some help from the National Guard. Gov. Brian Kemp is sending 100 troops to hospitals and the same number to testing sites.

In Augusta, University Hospital will be getting two non-clinical Guard members during the day shift and two at night to help with patient and traffic flow in the emergency department.

What’s different this time?

While the omicron variant is less severe, leading to a lower rate of hospitalization for people who catch it. But due to the sheer number of people coming down with omicron, experts fear the health care system could get overburdened.

The omicron variant looks different in those infected than in previous surges.

“We are seeing less COVID-related pneumonia, which is what we saw with the earlier variants. What we’re really seeing is omicron seems to make people moderately ill but it exacerbates their underlying illness,” Jansen explained.

Jansen said there are fewer people on ventilators and needing critical care than in past months.

“But my concern is as the numbers continue to increase, that could change,” he said.

“We are seeing very few people who have been fully vaccinated come to the hospital and require admission. Most of the people who have been vaccinated have not received their third shot when they require admission and usually they were vaccinated early on, in the first or second quarter of 2021,” said Jansen. “The other thing we’re seeing with people who are vaccinated is those people with underlying diseases are the ones who seem to be the most ill.”

“That concept that vaccines will absolutely protect you from any infection is not true but they will protect you from getting significantly sick,” he said.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT and WGCL