The omicron variant is causing case numbers to soar across Southwest Florida, and beds are filling up at local hospitals.
At NCH, there are 122 COVID-positive patients. At Lee Health, there are 276. And while both hospital systems say they have enough staff, the onslaught of COVID-19 patients may be making them feel understaffed. Health care workers could be feeling the strain with each new patient that comes in.
However, many medical professionals say the omicron surge we’re experiencing right now may be more manageable than the delta surge we saw last year. Delta targeted the unvaccinated and caused deaths to rise. This led to long days and nights for those frontline workers. And, while omicron may be spreading more quickly, it hasn’t proved to be as lethal.
Those working in hospital ICUs never left, not as delta sent in more patients, and they haven’t as omicron has begun to spread. Dr. Shyam Kapadia stayed with the hope that he’d never have to see another COVID-19 patient pass away.
“Friday, I put another patient on life support. And I came into the hospital today, hoping that he was doing better. And I learned that he had passed away over the weekend,” said Dr. Kapadia.
“I thought to myself that I’ve done this 100 times before with delta. And I felt comfortable getting in there and putting on my life support, but then I thought to myself, Man, we’re doing this again,” Dr. Kapadia said.
Yes, Dr. Kapadia did tell WINK News that his unvaccinated patient could have contracted ht delta variant. However, Lee Health doesn’t test for strains.
The thing that’s worse with the omicron variant is transmissibility. So many people are getting sick, filling up hospitals beds and hallways. That’s why a fully staffed hospital may feel understaffed during the chaos.
“Generally speaking, we’re always feeling the pressure,” said Kapadia.
Even if patients test positive but are asymptomatic and are hospitalized for a different reason require different resources. Each patient needs enough room to be isolated as well. And each nurse and doctor need the proper PPE.
Dr. Kapafia knows that omicron is much milder for most people. “I’m very hopeful that it’s going to be something that is not as that as the Delta surge. But this is COVID 2022. And we’re still seeing patients that are ending up on life support and dying,” the doctor said.
This is bad news for the unvaccinated and those at high risk or with underlying conditions. And, according to Kapadia, symptoms may be a bit different this time around.
“The symptoms are a little bit different this time, and that those symptoms of diabetes or congestive heart failure are getting exacerbated by the COVID. For example, I had a couple [of] patients last week that had blood sugars that were out of control. And that was because the COVID had tipped them over,” said Dr. Kapadia.
And the unvaccinated, even those without a booster shot, generally experience worse symptoms. “Patients that don’t have the booster have worse symptoms than patients that have gotten the booster. It’s night and day, in terms of symptom complexes, the duration of the illness,” he said.
So, while symptoms are overall more mild with omicron, the doctor says that doesn’t mean you can stop doing your part to stay safe. “That even though that you’ve read in the news, or you’ve seen online, that Omicron has symptoms that are not as severe, you still have to do your due diligence, make the right decision for yourself and those around you,” said Dr. Kapadia.
“And that decision will have to take into account who you’re being exposed to, like your neighbors or your loved ones, or your co-workers,” Dr. Kapadia said.
Lee Health is not currently reporting COVID-19 death totals but did tell WINK News that five patients died yesterday.