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Omicron cases are spiking, hospitalizations will follow soon

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 7:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The New Year promises to ring in more COVID-19 in the form on the highly transmissible omicron variant and with it, an increase in hospitalizations.

“So for me, January is going to be a big month for cases,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, the Director of Health for the University of Arizona. “February is when we’re going to see the greatest strain on our hospital system.”

Huge spikes in cases are already evident in Maricopa and Coconino Counties even before the New Year begins. But most say, be prepared for more to follow suit.

“I think after the first of the year, the week of January 3rd, I think when people come out of their celebratory time, that we will see a significant rise in cases,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Pima County Health Director.

So is there anything that can be done to slow the spread and ease the potential burden on the hospitals, which promises to be serious.

“Our hospital system really doesn’t have any more capacity,” said Dr. Gerald. “While we might be able to expand physical beds we don’t have the health care personnel to man them.”

It’s hard to predict just how serious the hospitalizations might be and how many there could be, but with a huge spike I cases, even if the omicron is thought to be less serious than the delta variant, the numbers will rise and potentially significantly.

“We seem to be seeing the hospitalization rate is lower for omicron and that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Dr. Cullen.

But she added “there have been deaths reported with omicron.”

Even though the numbers will increase substantially, there is a still great deal of uncertainty about how the variant might affect the population in Pima County.

A concern is how it might affect the older people who have not received a booster shot, which it’s estimated only about 50% have.

“We need people to be masking, we need people to get that third shot booster,” Dr. Gerald said. “These are some critical steps that people can take to protect not only themselves but the community at large.”

But another layer that people need to consider is home testing before family outings and other gatherings.

“Home testing is convenient, it is quick,” said Dr. Gerald. “And it can help you make decisions in real time about level of engagement with family and friends.”

Still, home testing kits are difficult to find and in some cases expensive but “home testing is a compliment to our clinical testing and it’s vital that we have access to it.”

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.