Santa Clara County hospitals are ‘stable’ amid omicron surge

As COVID-19 cases are spiking higher than they’ve ever been before from the highly contagious omicron variant, local health officials say that while hospital bed capacity remains stable, the biggest challenge is staffing shortages.

California health officials reported more than 230,000 new cases Tuesday after the long holiday weekend, more than twice the number of cases reported in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

Communities across the Bay Area are also seeing an uptick in omicron-positive cases, but despite the fact that the variant is “extremely contagious,” the percentage of positive patients who are getting hospitalized is much lower than with the previous variants, said Dr. Ahmad Kamal, director of healthcare preparedness for the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center.

“We haven’t seen really the impact on total bed capacity that we had seen last December and last January,” Kamal said, “so the number of available beds is looking pretty stable. And that’s true for ICU beds and non-ICU beds.”

Santa Clara County had 68 ICU beds available as of Jan 4. The county reported 278 positive or suspected COVID-19 cases, with 62 suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in the ICU. The ICU bed availability in the county was around 15%, including patients hospitalized for ailments other than COVID-19.

Kamal said first responders and hospital employees are getting the virus and making staffing at hospitals a “challenge every day.”.

“That’s definitely one of the biggest risks, the employee absenteeism, because as COVID circulates in the community, healthcare workers are also getting it and are calling out sick from work,” Kamal said. “Staffing is the major challenge that the healthcare system is feeling. The hospitals are working in creative ways to maximize how much staff they have available.”

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