Sunday, January 16, 2022

Health director: Omicron surge ‘starting to impact hospitals’ in Denton County

Tuesday, Jan. 11

Denton County hospitals are getting more and more COVID-19 patients as the Omicron variant surges through the county and hospital occupancy grows more limited.

On Monday, Denton County Public Health reported more than 2,000 new active COVID-19 cases among county residents, by far the most cases reported in one day since the pandemic began. On Tuesday, DCPH reported another 1,154, the third-highest single-day count of the pandemic. The Omicron wave has more than doubled the number of active cases in one month, as DCPH reported 11,734 active cases on Tuesday, up from around 5,000 in early- to mid-December. The countywide COVID-19 death toll remains at 766.

While Omicron symptoms tend to be milder for vaccinated patients, the current COVID-19 wave is causing a dramatic rise in hospitalizations. In November and early December, COVID-19 patients made up between 6-8% of all hospitalizations in Denton County, according to DCPH data. That number has surged from about 12% right before Christmas to 28% on Tuesday, a trend that worries DCPH Director Dr. Matt Richardson.

“You can compare it to prior waves. We’re not where we were with Delta, but we’re trending in that direction,” Richardson said during his weekly presentation at Tuesday’s Denton County Commissioners Court meeting. “There’s quite a bit of momentum with Omicron and hospitals, and that’s a concern.”

Richardson said hospitals are reporting that ICU beds are harder to staff, up to 20% of their existing staff members have been absent, and a rising number of patients are requiring a ventilator. Richardson said this surge is negatively affecting all hospital patients, not just those with COVID-19.

“I think one of the most alarming things on hospital capacity that has happened with every wave, and is now happening with Omicron, is what they call an ‘ER hold,'” Richardson said. “It’s when you go to the emergency room and there’s no inpatient bed for you. Many of our hospitals are experiencing ER holds, some are (up to) double-digit hours in the ER waiting for a staffed bed.”

According to DCPH data on Tuesday, about 89% of the nearly 800 inpatient beds in the county are occupied, and 94% of the 94 ICU beds are occupied.

Richardson said the concerning trend of Omicron and its impacts on hospitals show the importance of getting vaccinated or boosted and staying home when you’re sick.

COVID-19 tests are still hard to find. At-home tests are sold out at local pharmacies, and appointments for tests administered at pharmacies, DCPH and urgent care centers are also hard to come by.

To minimize spread of COVID-19, DCPH urges community members to:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted when eligible
  • Wear well-fitting masks in public indoor settings
  • Test five days after exposure or if you have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Isolate, quarantine, and wear a mask when recommended

Click here for more information about COVID-19 vaccines in Denton County. For additional COVID-19 data including active case information by municipality, hospital capacity and ventilator utilization, visit dentoncounty.gov/COVIDstats.

For information regarding DCPH’s upcoming testing centers, visit dentoncounty.gov/COVID19testing.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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