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Hospitalizations climb in Tennessee as omicron variant spreads

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Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 9:52 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising as the virus surges across the Mid-South.

Hospitalizations across Tennessee are the highest we’ve seen in the past three months.

One local emergency room doctor says more hospital activity during the holidays is nothing new, but this latest COVID-19 surge has caused some concern.

Dr. Ben Bowman, medical director at Methodist Germantown, says his ER is seeing quite a few COVID-19 patients come through the doors.

“We are seeing maybe a higher percentage of people who have been vaccinated test positive, but again, the primary goal of the vaccine all along is to prevent severe disease and up to this point, so far, it seems to be doing that,” Bowman said.

Bowman says most vaccinated patients don’t require hospitalization but the entire Methodist system is seeing an increase of patients who do.

As of Tuesday morning, Methodist Healthcare System reported 129 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. A week ago, it was about half of that with just 64 patients.

Early studies show the omicron variant is much more transmissible but may be less severe than other variants.

Bowman says the COVID-19 symptoms prompting patients to seek medical care are the same, including lots of sore throats, body aches, chills, and coughs.

“I have not personally seen as many people complaining of a loss of taste or smell, but I’m not saying that doesn’t happen with omicron but that used to be a pretty common complaint I know with alpha and delta, and some other variants,” he said.

Across the state of Tennessee, there are over 1,200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The last time numbers were that high was the latter part of October.

Mississippi health officials are also reporting a rapid increase in hospitalizations. There were 400 reported hospitalizations Monday compared to just 239 on Christmas Eve.

“The hope right now is for everybody in healthcare is omicron continues to cause more mild disease and doesn’t result in as many hospitalizations and ultimately people dying,” said Bowman.

Bowman says people may experience longer wait times in emergency rooms due to a higher volume of patients for this time of the year.

He asks you to not use your local emergency rooms for things like COVID tests. Reserve emergency rooms for true emergencies

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