you're reading...

Cornelius News

Omicron may inundate hospitals despite being less virulent

Jan. 10. By Dave Yochum. We have a less deadly, more contagious virus sweeping through the population, even among those who are vaccinated. While it is less virulent, everyone is getting it, which means co-morbidities will be part of the norm and “COVID” hospitalizations will spike.

COVID hospitalizations have risen from about 40,000 nationally in early November to 65,000 at Christmas and more than 110,000 now. The next two or three weeks will be difficult for healthcare workers as hospitals become overwhelmed.

On Friday, Jan. 7, there were 3,474 North Carolinians hospitalized with COVID. On Jan. 7, 2021, there were 3,960 North Carolinians hospitalized due to COVID.

Strain on hospitals

We interviewed a senior nurse at one of the leading hospital chains in North Carolina about her experience with COVID right now, and where it seems to be going.

Despite surging case numbers, deaths and severe hospitalizations rates have not followed. A “decoupling” of cases and hospitalizations appears to be under way, she said.

Q: The omicron numbers are soaring, but hospitalizations are not climbing as quickly. Does that indicate that people are not as sick?

Nurse Z: I think the numbers reported are low. A lot of people testing positive just stay home and don’t report their sickness to any agency. Yes, omicron infection isn’t as severe as delta. Our ER is flooded with sick people.

Q: By sick people, you mean people ill with omicron.

Nurse Z: And delta. The sickest continue to be the unvaccinated. Hospitalizations lag cases by two or three weeks, so we’re only starting to see the effect of soaring daily case counts.

Q: If omicron causes less severe symptoms, why are ERs and hospitals filling up?

Nurse Z: The ERs are getting an influx of people seeking COVID testing that they can’t find elsewhere. There is also still a large number of people with the delta variant who are the very sick ones. We’re busy because of the volume of surgeries both elective and emergency.

Q: How is staff holding up?

Nurse Z: It is really rough for the nurses on med/surg, ICU and the ER. They are all short-staffed and full of patients. The ED was holding 23 patients waiting on beds, the “wait time” to be seen in the ER was over 5 hours. So subsequently, the floor nurses can’t catch their breath between discharging a patient and getting another patient in that room.