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Omicron surge, weeks away from peak, will likely get worse before it gets better

(WBRC)
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 4:55 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The latest COVID-19 surge, fueled by the super-contagious omicron variant, could last another month or more, doctors believe.

In Louisiana, the state’s department of health reported 1,200 COVID patients in hospitals on Tuesday, an increase of 700 since last week. On Monday, Louisiana shattered previous multi-day reporting periods, logging over 31,000 cases of COVID-19 over the New Years weekend.

The skyrocketing increase of daily cases reflects, in part, a stampede among Americans and tourists visiting New Orleans to get tested before holiday gatherings, and new requirements at workplaces, restaurants, theaters, and other businesses.

Experts say over the next two to four weeks, the omicron surge will likely grow worse before it gets better.

Although hospitals are again getting overcrowded, staffing shortages are more of a problem than a lack of bed space.

“The staffing shortage is the issue we are dealing with every day,” said UMC’s Dr. Jeffrey Elder. “Our own employees are getting COVID and can’t work for a period of time.”

Many hospitals are having to supplement their staff with contract workers. Omicron’s peak is still considered to be weeks away.

“I think the next two weeks will be crucial,” said Dr. Elder.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“I would think we have another three to four, or potentially five to six weeks of this. We are at the very beginning of what could be a rough January and early February,” said health educator Dr. Eric Griggs.

To ease hospital overcrowding, doctors are urging people to stay home unless symptoms grow severe and to get tested if they’re suffering from mild symptoms such as low fever, and mild sore throat.

“If you have a kid struggling to breathe, breathing fast, chest muscles retracting when they breathe... If they have a high fever that doesn’t get better with Tylenol or Motrin or the child is not acting right,” said Elder.

Unlike the delta variant, doctors say most people showing up with omicron come in with other more severe medical problems.

“A lot of patients are being admitted to the hospital for other problems, like heart attacks and strokes not related to COVID. Then we admit them to the hospital and they test positive for COVID,” said Elder.

Dr. Elder says far fewer people are being admitted to ICUs due to omicron when compared to those admitted during the delta variant surge.

Elder says it’s important to get kids vaccinated because it vastly reduces the chances of them being hospitalized for COVID-19.

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