NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sentara Healthcare is reporting record-high levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations as the omicron variant continues its rapid spread, with hospitalizations more than doubling in the past 10 days.
As of Wednesday, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital was reporting 80 confirmed COVID patients, up from just over 20 in early December. Other local hospitals are reporting similar trends.
With that, Sentara and other health care providers are asking people seeking a COVID test or those with “mild” cases or COVID-like symptoms to avoid going to the emergency department to lessen overcrowding.
“If you are unable to find a testing location but are experiencing mild symptoms, assume you have COVID-19 and follow the CDC guidelines for isolation,” Sentara officials said in an update on Thursday.
During a news conference on Thursday, Chief Physician Executive Dr. Jordan Asher stopped short of calling it a crisis.
Asher did say, however, that they are working with the state as it relates to emergency and crisis situations.
Asher said that the highly contagious omicron variant that is spreading in the community is also affecting their workforce.
Asher assured that as of Thursday afternoon, Sentara had enough staff to take care of all patients, but they are constantly monitoring and moving staff members, beds and procedures as needed to meet the demand.
Virginia overall has nearly as many COVID patients currently hospitalized as the 2020-21 winter surge. The vast majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people requiring hospitalizations typically have conditions that put them at higher risk such as age or a chronic health problem.
Fewer people overall are dying of COVID though with the omicron wave, due to a combination of high vaccination rates and the variant appearing to be less severe than previous versions of the virus such as delta, but more than 1,300 people are still dying of COVID in the U.S. on average each day. Most of them again are unvaccinated.
Asher implored everyone to get immunized and boosted and warns treatments for the omicron variant are limited.
“Please don’t think that ‘It’s OK if I get COVID because there are medications that will prevent me from getting very sick,'” he said.
Only one monoclonal antibody works against omicron and the two FDA-approved pills are in short supply.