TAMPA, Fla. — As the omicron variant continues to surge, Tampa Bay area hospitals are yet again left feeling the impact of the rise in cases. Local hospitals shared how they’re dealing with the new wave, from resources to staffing.
“Today, we’re at 750 patients, and with delta, we peaked at over 1,100, so we haven’t gotten as many patients yet as we did during delta,” said Glenn Waters, BayCare’s Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer.
While COVID cases and hospitalizations are up during this surge, they’re still not as high as what we saw during the delta surge last year. ABC Action News asked Waters how this surge compares to what they saw with the delta variant.
“The two biggest differences is there are fewer people in the ICU,” said Waters. “A second difference is their length of stay in the hospital is less than what it was before.”
With resources like PPE and ventilators, Waters says they’re doing fine, though he explains they’re still dealing with staffing challenges and says managing it means adjusting on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s the same challenge that we had before, but also with omicron, if you think about how it’s more contagious, we’ve gotten more team members that are out sick,” said Waters. “The good news is they’re out for a shorter period of time, but we have more people that are out.”
“We’re seeing more kids hospitalized than we did with delta. I’m not saying it's necessarily more severe. I think it’s just so much more prevalent through the community, so we’re seeing more and more kids who are testing positive, and then the more kids that are positive, a percentage of those kids are going to need hospitalization, a percentage of those are going to need the ICU,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, the VP of Medical Affairs at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Perno explains they closely monitor their resources, but says his bigger worry is their supply of people.
“The raw numbers, we’re seeing numbers of employees being out like we haven’t seen yet in the pandemic,” said Perno. “So that’s a challenge, and we’re working on different solutions to work through that problem to deal with it so we’re here to care for our patients.”
ABC Action News checked in with other local hospitals on how they’re dealing with the surge. Some say they remain prepared for the continued increase in patients, while others say they’ve been able to fill staffing gaps by offering extra shifts and by contracting with staffing agencies.
To help a stressed health care system, health experts say get vaccinated, wear a mask, and if you need a COVID test, unless you’re very sick, opt for a community testing site rather than going to the ER.
“We’re all hopeful that maybe the omicron surge is quick, and that it’s something that we can just fight through over a week or two and then it gets better, but we just don’t know,” said Perno.