Health officials worried Omicron variant could impact Alabama Hospitals
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant has now been found in Alabama.
CDC officials said it will likely be the dominant strain nationwide by next month and local doctors said it will be dominant in Alabama in the next couple of weeks.
Alabama Hospital Association’s Dr. Don Williamson said he does not know exactly what this means for Alabama hospitals.
“Once you detect Omicron, it’s very widespread,” Williamson said. “Our COVID cases are going to absolutely increase. I don’t know if our hospital cases will rise at the same rate. That is what we are going to have to watch very carefully.”
Williamson said this is because data shows that Omicron appears to cause less severe disease in vaccinated people.
“Even if Omicron doesn’t cause severe disease, if enough people get it, there will be an increase in hospitalizations,” He said. “Just because the number of people who might be at risk of hospitalizations increases, so I think we have to be very cautious.”
Alabama’s positivity rate is up to 7% and Williamson said hospitalizations are up too, averaging about 375 people with the virus.
“Staffing is not better now than it was during September or August,” Williamson said. “So, the rate limiting issue will almost certainly be staffing again.”
Staffing being his number one concern, Williamson said he is not as stressed about ICU capacity.
“We have demonstrated that we can rapidly stand up ICU beds and expand ICU capacity,” he said. “So, I’m not worried about our ability to make that jump.”
Officials with the state health department said the positive Omicron case came out of the West Central Public Health District. The person hasn’t been hospitalized and had not traveled outside of Alabama recently.
The CDC reports Omicron has been found so far in at least 36 states.
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