Hospitals ‘cautiously optimistic’ COVID surge may be slowing

Dr. O’Neil Pyke of Jackson North Medical Center says he is hopeful that South Florida's COVID-19 hospital numbers are reaching a plateau and will soon decline.

MIAMI – Dr. O’Neil Pyke, the chief medical officer for Jackson North Medical Center, says COVID-19 hospitalizations have plateaued and there continues to not be as much pressure on ICU beds as compared to the summer’s delta wave.

“We haven’t seen that decline that I would like to see, but I am cautiously optimistic right now in terms of the numbers plateauing,” he said Tuesday. “One positive thing is that the hospitalizations have not gone up as high as we thought or feared it to.”

Researchers have suggested that this week could mark the peak of the omicron variant wave in the United States.

“One positive in this wave is that we don’t have as many ICU beds being filled up,” Pyke said. “We do have a fair bit, but it was not like it was for delta. ... We have a lot of medical, surgical, and folks on telemetry being hospitalized because they are ill, but not intubated and ventilated the way we saw delta causing that kind of problem.”

Jackson Health reports that just over 50% of the COVID-positive patients in their care systemwide are admitted primarily for non-coronavirus reasons.

“It means that the patient came in for a heart attack or a stroke and because we test every single patient who is going to be admitted, we find that some of them are in fact COVID-positive, but they do not present to the hospital due to their COVID-positive state, they came for something different, and we found that incidentally,” Pyke said.

Emergency rooms are still busy Pyke said, but not at the level witnessed during the holidays when demand for testing was also high.

Meanwhile, Florida International University infectious diseases expert Dr. Aileen Marty said results from a recent wastewater epidemiology report show high levels of community transmission.

“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,” she said, “which is an indicator omicron is still floating around in our air.”

It’s an indication now is not the time to let your guard down, a sentiment echoed by Pyke.

“Folks have to be their brother’s keeper, their sister’s keeper in this, because that is the only way we can stem the tide,” he said. “Even though you may not be negatively affected with hospitalization or severe illness, someone close to you is. .... They have to stay vigilant.”

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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."