Omicron cases keep climbing, hospital bed availability varies

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in Jefferson County, but hospital bed availability varies at local hospitals.

“This is the highest number of cases we’ve seen since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Praphul Joshi, lead investigator for COVID-19 for Jefferson County. “We’re still getting numbers as we speak.”

According to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, as of Jan. 3, there were 68 people in general beds and 13 in intensive care. However, what this means for individual hospitals differs.

“In general, we’ve seen an increase in hospital cases over the past two weeks,” said Ryan Miller, chief operating officer of Christ St. Elizabeth. “I would say that compared to previous climbs, we have not achieved the values ​​that we experienced in early autumn or late summer. We are grateful for that. “

His healthcare workers are doing fine with nearly two years of experience with the pandemic, according to Miller. Your guidelines and practices have not changed with the new variant.

“We are confident that we can safely help patients receive the best possible care,” said Miller.

The situation is more serious at the Baptist Hospital in southeast Texas.

“We currently have 12 (patients) currently waiting on a bed in our emergency room,” said Todd Senters, vice president of operations. “The number of beds is limited with us. We are therefore currently considering opening another COVID unit for the overflow so that we can move these patients from the emergency room to a more stable COVID management unit.

He said the situation was “very difficult” for the nurses and hospital staff. Not only do they treat hospital patients, but according to Senters, Baptist is the planner for the Jefferson County’s regional infusion center.

“We had requested the state to increase the request from 60 infusions per day to 120, and that request was granted on Wednesday last week,” Senters said. “It actually went into effect on Saturday – New Years Day.”

Currently, they are facing the nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibody drugs, particularly sotrovimab – the only antibody treatment that effectively combats the omicron variant. The infusion center is waiting for the federal and state governments to send a shipment to Jefferson County.

But they don’t have a clear timetable for when the drug will be available.

“We were told January but we’re already in January,” said Senters. “So we don’t know what that means.”

Although hospital admissions numbers appear to be more manageable than when the Delta variant caused a surge in the region, Joshi fears the data is still very fresh – just a few weeks old and too new for officers to be comfortable with . The uptrend so far is sharp and has the potential to continue rising.

“For example, we only had eight patients in the county on December 15th and it’s nearly 70 (now) and it’s increasing,” he said. “This is not good. According to the predictive models we have, (Omicron) is spreading at least twice faster than Delta. “

At Delta, an infected person would infect an average of three to four more people, Joshi said. With omicron, one person can easily be transferred to eight people.

This is exactly what Joshi warned a few months ago when people decided against a vaccination. He said mutated strains would become even more contagious. Even today, the most severe cases are usually found in the unvaccinated population.

“The vast majority of our patients who require hospitalization are those who are not vaccinated,” Miller said.

Joshi foresees at least a few more years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s never too late,” he said. “It’s still a good idea to get vaccinated.”

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