The discovery of the Omicron variant completely shifted the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, sending the national daily case average skyrocketing to an all-time high. And while research has found that the latest viral offshoot appears to be more transmissible than Delta or other previous variants, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, confirmed during a Jan. 5 press briefing that research had found Omicron to be less severe as well. But even if the virus is less likely to cause serious illness—especially if they are vaccinated or boosted—the national number of hospitalizations with the virus has still reached its highest point yet, with certain states seeing even worse surges in patients than others.
On Jan. 11, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID hit a pandemic high of 145,982, breaking the previous record set during a surge in January 2021, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). COVID patients now also make up roughly 30 percent of all ICU admissions nationwide, while children are increasingly being hospitalized with the virus at a higher rate than ever before, NPR reports.
Experts have been cautioning that hospitalizations would spike despite the variant being likely to cause milder symptoms. “There will certainly be a lot more cases because this is a much more transmissible virus than Delta is,” Fauci said during a Jan. 2 interview on CNN’s State of the Union. “The only difficulty is that if you have so many cases, even if the rate of hospitalization is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalizations that might stress the healthcare system.”
Unfortunately, a dwindling supply of hospital beds could have catastrophic consequences. “The new Omicron math: somewhat milder x massively more infectious = overwhelmed hospitals and lots of deaths,” Bob Wachter, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), tweeted on Jan. 6.
Read on to see which states have experienced surges in COVID hospitalization of more than 150 percent over the past week as of Jan. 12, according to data from The New York Times.
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 152 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 34
A spike in hospitalizations is hitting South Carolina just after it reported breaking its single-day case record with 16,630 new infections on Jan. 6, surpassing the previous record set just two days earlier of 13,320. The report nearly doubled the previous single-day high reported on Dec. 30 of 8,800. As of Jan. 12, it’s also seen a more significant spike in COVID cases than any other state, skyrocketing 842 percent over the past 14 days to 253 cases per 100,000 people, according to data from The Times.
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 157 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 50
COVID hospitalizations are on the rise in Georgia, where the case count has also spiked 117 percent over the past two weeks to 185 per 100,000 people as of Jan. 12, according to data from The Times. Unfortunately, deaths have also risen over the same period, spiking 9 percent to a daily average of 31.
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 190 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 37
Alabama’s recent surge in COVID hospitalizations has also been coupled with a major spike in COVID cases, increasing 392 percent over the past two weeks to 210 cases per capita as of Jan. 12, data from The Times show. The state is also reporting a 39.4 positive test rate, according to COVID Act Now.
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 191 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 20
Hawaii, which still ranks as the state with the fewest all-time COVID cases per capita, has seen its recent surge in cases spill over into hospitalizations, causing concern for some local officials. “We fully expect given the infection rate and the positivity rate in the state that we will get close to or perhaps even exceed the hospitalization rate that we had during the Delta surge,” Hilton Raethel, MPH, president and CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii, told local Honolulu Fox/CW affiliate KHON.
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 197 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 38
Besides a significant surge in hospitalizations, Mississippi is also seeing COVID-19 cases spike with a 301 percent increase over the past 14 days to 205 per capita as of Jan. 12, according to data from The Times. The state is also reporting a positive test rate of 44.1 percent, according to data from COVID Act Now.
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 272 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 47
After COVID-19 cases in Florida began to spike leading into the holidays, an increase in hospitalizations appears to have followed. Now, local healthcare systems are feeling the strain of the added patients.
“We really just look at it as another wave, and let’s address it head-on and try to mitigate as best as possible,” Joshua Lenchus, MD, Regional Chief Medical Officer for Broward Health, told local Miami ABC affiliate WPLG. “A good 75 to 80 percent of those are consistently unvaccinated. We have looked at this last month of the Omicron wave.”
- Percent increase in the last 14 days: 311 percent
- Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 34
As well as topping the nation in terms of surges in COVID hospitalizations, Louisiana is also seeing a 275 percent increase in new cases over the past 14 days to 248 per capita. State officials noted that the recent spike is nearing record-high levels for patient numbers.
“Louisiana’s COVID hospitalizations were last this high at the end of July/beginning of August 2021, when the state was in the throes of the Delta surge,” Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, said in a statement. “The trend we’ve seen during this Omicron surge is that three out of every four people hospitalized with COVID in Louisiana are unvaccinated. The vaccines are working, period.”