RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – The current wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant could last several weeks longer and put significant additional pressure on hospitals and other areas of society, an expert said on Friday from North Carolina State University.
Dr Julie Swann, who leads a team of researchers and advised the CDC on the trajectory of the pandemic during the omicron outbreak, said hospitalizations from COVID-19 will likely reach record levels in North Carolina.
“And it’s particularly embarrassing because there aren’t as many hospital staff as there was a year and a half ago. And hospital staff are also affected by COVID themselves, ”she said. “When hospitals are full and there are not enough staff, the care of all patients can suffer to some extent.”
Swann, who is a health systems expert, said the latest wave of cases is expected to last until mid-February, but could be affected by behavior changes such as more people receiving booster shots and using effectively masks.
“What we are seeing in North Carolina is similar to what we expected. The cases are mounting quite quickly, ”she said. “We still have room for this push to escalate in North Carolina. I expect cases to continue to rise a little longer as people enter schools or workplaces. “
The state Department of Health and Human Services reported 28,474 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a new record.
Swann noted that symptoms are generally milder with the omicron variant, especially for those who are fully vaccinated and have received their booster shots. She said her own family members had recently tested positive, but all were vaccinated and received the booster if they were eligible.
She pointed out that the large number of people who test positive daily shows how contagious the variant is, which also has an impact on people who are at a higher risk of more serious results.
“We could look at several more weeks and especially given that hospitalizations are lagging behind cases, I am looking particularly at this measure,” she said. “It could also be a little different in Raleigh than in some rural areas. Most models predict that the push will continue until the end of January and possibly until mid or late February, depending on the location.
NCDHHS reported on Friday that 3,474 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. That number peaked at 3,992 last January.
“But, it’s hitting all over the country almost at the same time. And so, absenteeism is really the root cause of a lot of disruption in a lot of different industries, ”Swann said. “It may seem inevitable that you will get some version of the virus at some point, even if you take precautions like wearing a mask and being tested. And, it may be possible. The important thing is to have as much protection as possible before contracting the virus. “
Gov. Roy Cooper (R) addressed the outbreak on Friday, saying his administration remains in close contact with healthcare facilities as they grapple with the situation.
“We want to bring this virus to the endemic stage. We understand that this virus is going to be with us for a long time, but that we have to make sure that we can lead normal lives, ”he said.