SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Omicron variant is on a tear in Utah — but how much longer will the spike last?
“Each day, the number of people being admitted to the hospital are the highest it’s ever been,” said Erin Clouse, strategic engagement manager at U of U Health.
Meantime, hospital employee numbers are down for a number of reasons — including current employees out sick — so fewer staff are around to help patients.
“Omicron is having an impact on us, on you and me, on the healthcare system, on police, fire, emergency services, on stocking of grocery stores and clearing of streets. Unlike anything we’ve seen throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Andy Pavia with U of U Health & Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
Pavia says other areas of the country and world — from Rhode Island and New York to South Africa — provide data that Omicron cases typically peak around 3 weeks, and Utah is nearly there in terms of the recent timeline.
“These are all areas with much higher vaccination rates than what we’re seeing in the West. We don’t have any good data yet,” said Pavia.
“I’m not sure we’re quite at the peak yet,” added Pavia.
Meantime, the highly-transmissible Omicron variant is straining Utah’s testing sites — and likely driving official numbers down as the governor asks sick Utahns to stay home and assume they’re COVID-positive.
“About one in seven, one in eight people that you might come across in any given day likely has COVID and doesn’t even know that they have COVID,” said Russell Vinik, M.D., Chief Medical Operations Officer at University of Utah Hospital.
“The odds of you getting exposed are so high on any given day,” Vinik added.
Those who are fully vaccinated and boosted are typically getting mild illness, a manageable bout with COVID but not a trip to the hospital, said Pavia. And though Omicron is considered milder, those who are not vaccinated are still at greater risk of hospitalization.
“More than 80 percent of those in the hospital right now, including children, are unvaccinated. So there’s still a lot of severe disease occurring among people who are unvaccinated,” said Pavia.