Cone Health Projections Point to Difficult Start to New Year
The Omicron variant threatens to turn back the clock on a year’s worth of gains against COVID-19.
Greensboro – Cone Health data scientists see the Omicron variant dramatically increasing the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals. Cone Health anticipates the number of COVID-19 cases in its hospitals to double or triple in the coming weeks. The health network urges everyone eligible for a booster vaccination to get one and for people to take common sense health precautions—especially at holiday gatherings.
A doubling or tripling of people with COVID-19 in hospitals would return the community to where it was last January. That’s when Cone Health hit a high of 265 patients with COVID-19. (Last midnight the health network had 90.) That resulted in crowded emergency departments, long waits for care and calls for people to seek alternatives to non-critical care when possible.
“Omicron is here. It spreads twice as fast as Delta, so it has the potential to infect many people quickly. Infections are being detected as early as 2-3 days after exposure,” says Dr. Cynthia Snider, MPH, medical director, infection prevention, Cone Health. “This is the time to get a booster. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated. And since Omicron infects some people who have had COVID-19 or have even been vaccinated, take basic public health precautions. We ask people to wear masks indoors, stay away from one another and if you are meeting people from other households take a test to keep everyone safe.”
COVID-19 vaccines are free to the public. People can register for a vaccination at ConeHealth.com/vaccine. They are also available at many drug stores and grocery store pharmacies.
“We hope the impact of Omicron on the Triad will be similar to its effect in South Africa, where it appears to cause less severe disease than the Delta variant,” says Cone Health Data Scientist Michael DeWitt. “But even in that best case, we are still likely to see big numbers of patients because Omicron is so much more transmissible. And the Triad has a lot more people who are overweight, with diabetes, heart disease and other medical conditions than South Africa. Our experience is probably going to mirror the Northeast or Midwest U.S. They are seeing big surges already.”
Increases in COVID-19 cases will come on top of unusually busy hospitals. Cone Health is seeing more people in its hospitals for non-COVID care than typical. That is because many people are seeking care that was delayed due to previous COVID-19 surges.