Hospitals urge COVID caution over Christmas, but ICUs not filling up

Omicron can cause serious illness but doesn’t look as deadly as delta, doctor says

Jackson North Chief Medical Officer Dr. O’Neil Pyke says that, unlike the summer’s delta-driven spike, there is not yet mounting pressure on ICU beds during this omicron variant surge.

MIAMI – The steady uptick in COVID-19 patients across Jackson Health System’s hospitals — the majority unvaccinated — continues, rising from 38 just over a week ago to 131.

However, Jackson North Chief Medical Officer Dr. O’Neil Pyke says that, unlike the summer’s delta-driven spike, there is not mounting pressure on ICU beds during this omicron variant surge.

“So far, we have actually seen the majority of patients coming in being able to discharge home for monitoring rather than be hospitalized,” he said. “This omicron variant does not appear to be as deadly as the delta variant. It doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t actually cause severe illness in some patients.”

And that is why, with Nochebuena and Christmas around the corner “we are having the same conversations as nurses and doctors and administrators,” Pyke said. “Do we go to grandma’s home for dinner? Do we go to our parents’ home for dinner, or do we sit this one out and make sure we do the right thing in protecting them if we feel we have symptoms or are at risk or we feel we may put them into unnecessary risk?”

[ALSO SEE: Florida nears COVID record with 26,000+ new cases in 1 day]

Pyke recommends getting a COVID test “and if you are positive, stay home in quarantine, do not put other people at risk.”

Long lines at testing sites across South Florida show many community members are taking that advice.

“I got tested on Tuesday and have just been really careful since then,” said Julie Frans, who was traveling through Miami International Airport.

“A lot of people are asking since we are going to see family, and it’s necessary — we have to be safe for others,” said Deloris Macksoud, who got tested Thursday at Tropical Park.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office says that next week and into the first week of January, they aim to open three to five new testing sites, starting with locations in Doral and Southwest Miami-Dade.

Levine Cava also pushed residents to get the readily available vaccines and booster shots if they haven’t already.

Vaccination appears to be playing a role in keeping hospitalizations down.

“We have more patients who are vaccinated,” Pyke said. “The patients who are vaccinated will come in with illness that is not as severe, generally.”

For information on where you can get a COVID-19 test or vaccine in South Florida, click here.


About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."