Omicron Is Draining Hospitals And Its Peak Still Isn't Here

Models predict Omicron's surge will peak between Jan. 19 and Jan. 27 with around 273,000 to 350,000 people hospitalized.
Posted at 9:24 PM, Jan 11, 2022

New COVID cases continue to spike as hospitals across the country struggle to keep up with a surge of their own.  

"It is horrible to say that when a small community hospital says, 'I need your help. I have a patient here I can't handle,' we may not have the capacity to do that," said Dr. Jeff Fischgrund, clinical services chief of Beaumont Health System in Michigan.

Hospitalizations have more than doubled in two weeks.  

The latest Health and Human Services data shows more than 145,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID Tuesday, and there are not enough people to care for them.  

"Six to eight employees per hour are calling and saying they're newly diagnosed with COVID," said Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego.

A quarter of U.S. hospitals are reporting a "critical staffing shortage," and 120 more say they're a week away from it.  

"If you can't have enough doctors and nurses, then you can't take care of all the patients or everybody is stretched very thin," said Dr. Bob Wachter, chief of medicine at University of California, San Francisco.

Wachter tells Newsy Omicron should fade out as quickly as it came in the next month or so, but before that, it's grim. 

"You take those kinds of numbers, you scramble for a little while trying to make up for it and pull people out of vacation and maybe start canceling some surgeries and canceling some clinics, but at the end of the day, it becomes very hard to staff your emergency room and your intensive care unit," Wachter said. 

At least half a dozen states have called on the National Guard for help.

In states like Texas and Massachusetts, hospitals are cutting the number of beds available. 

In California, Rhode Island and Arizona, employees are being told to stay on the job if they test positive but are symptom-free. 

In Kansas, it means struggling to help with COVID testing.  

"We can't get the staff to do it. It's just, it's really frustrating when all you want to do is the best for your community and you just don't have the resources to do it," said Dr. Jennifer Schrimsher, an infectious diseases physician at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Kansas. 

Many are just exhausted by two years of a pandemic, fighting the current surge and pleading for the public to help.  

"We're burying people every day, still in their 30s, 40s, 50s from a disease that's pretty preventable from a vaccine," said Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates of University of Kentucky Health Care.