MIAMI – In southeast Florida, there has been a drop in hospitalizations, which experts say could signal the peak in coronavirus omicron variant cases is close.
Marc Napp, the chief medical officer at the Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County, said the hospitals were no longer seeing huge numbers of people coming in with COVID-19 symptoms.
Napp said during the peak of the last wave of Delta variant cases they had 740 patients, and got up to 690, and close to 700 with the omicron variant, but the system is back down to the mid 600s. He said staff is returning to work and discharges are accelerating.
“I think from a hospital strain perspective, the community is in good shape ... the numbers are way back down to essentially normal levels ... and unlike in prior surges we never saw a significant rise in ICU patients this time,” Napp said on Monday, adding COVID-19 pediatric admissions are still up.
Napp said there is still a fair amount of vaccine hesitancy among parents, and so there has been a slight surge in pediatric patients coming into Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. He anticipates those numbers will start to come back down too.
“I am not going to tell any of my workforce, ‘Don’t worry, we are ahead of this.’ I would never say that, and I would say the same thing to the public, ‘You don’t know what is next and therefore we have to pay attention to what the best advice is and what the science says,’” Napp said.
Epidemiologists are analyzing data on coronavirus tests and COVID-19 hospitalizations to predict the peak in omicron variant cases. Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted the peak nationwide will be on Wednesday.
“We do expect that by March most of the omicron wave that will infect 60% of the world’s population, and in some countries more than that, should be over,” said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, the director of the institute.
On Sunday, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned during an interview with CNN that the next few weeks are going to be very difficult in many parts of the country as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rise.
“The challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace,” Murthy said.
The CDC has warned forecasts do not reliably predict rapid changes in the trends of reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The latest CDC national ensemble predicts 10,400 to 31,000 new deaths likely reported in the week ending Feb. 5.
In Miami-Dade County, evidence shows omicron is still spreading.
Dr. Aileen Marty, a Florida International University infectious disease expert, attributed the decrease in cases in Miami-Dade County partly to physicians’ ability to roll over patients faster, especially the vaccinated patients who were able to get out of hospital fairly quickly.
“It is the unvaccinated that tend to linger on,” Marty said.
According to the CDC, about 63% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but only 38% have received the booster shot.
Marty said the data gathered through wastewater epidemiology still shows significant levels of coronavirus in Miami-Dade County.
“Our sewer system report just came out and it is again highest ever in terms of concentrations we are more than 12,000-fold higher percentage concentration of COVID in our wastewater than back in September and 5% more than it was last week, which is an indicator omicron is still floating around in our air,” Marty said.
The CDC is also promoting the use of KN95 and N95 face masks, which studies show offer more than 90% protection from the virus. Marty also warned there is no reason to think omicron will be the last coronavirus variant during the pandemic.
“I am sure there are other things popping up even as we speak,” Marty said.
“There will be something new that comes along and whether or not it will be significant from a public policy and a public health perspective is too early to tell.”
Related graphic: Nationwide data
Related graphic: Florida data