CDC: Omicron Focuses on the Healthcare System in a Different Way

Once Omicron took hold, the United States saw a higher percentage of inpatient beds used than previous high transmission periods, but lower rates of serious outcomes and deaths, the researchers found. .

From December 19, 2021 to January 15, 2022, COVID patients used a maximum of 21% of “staffed inpatient beds,” seven percentage points higher than the Delta period and three percentage points higher than the surge winter 2020-2021. , reported A. Danielle Iuliano, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues.

However, staffed intensive care unit (ICU) bed utilization for COVID patients during Omicron (30.4%) was slightly lower than in Delta or the previous winter, and the Omicron period saw increases. emergency department visits, hospital admissions and deaths. -reports by case than the two previous high transmission periods, wrote the authors in a first edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Additionally, among hospitalized patients, the average length of stay and the percentages admitted to intensive care, requiring mechanical ventilation or dying in hospital were all lower on Omicron than before, the team noted.

“This apparent decrease in disease severity is likely related to several factors, including increased vaccination coverage among eligible individuals and the use of booster vaccines among recommended subgroups,” the group wrote. ‘Iuliano.

They looked at data from three surveillance systems and a health facility database to examine COVID-related data from three periods of high COVID transmission: the Omicron period (December 19, 2021 to January 15, 2022 ), the Delta period (July 15 – Oct. 31, 2021) and the 2020-2021 winter surge (Dec. 1, 2020-Feb. 28, 2021).

As of January 15, 2022, the authors noted that the maximum daily 7-day moving average of cases, ER visits, and admissions exceeded both the delta and previous winter periods:

  • 798,976 cases (+386% over the Delta period, +219% over the previous winter)
  • 48,238 emergency room visits (+86%, +137%)
  • 21,586 entries (+76%, +31%)

However, the average of 1,854 deaths during Omicron was 4% lower than Delta and 46% lower than winter 2020-2021, the authors said.

Event-to-case ratios were also lower during Omicron than during Delta or the previous winter, respectively:

  • Emergency room visits: 87 per 1,000 cases (vs. 167 and 92 per 1,000)
  • Hospitalizations: 27 per 1,000 (vs. 78 and 68 per 1,000)
  • Deaths: 9 per 1,000 (vs. 13 and 16 per 1,000)

Iuliano’s group also found that the percentage of inpatients admitted to an intensive care unit during Omicron was relatively 26% lower than Delta and 29% lower than the previous winter (P

The average length of stay during Omicron (5.5 days) also decreased compared to Delta (7.6 days) and the previous winter (8.0 days, P

They added that hospitals are not necessarily strained by the severity of the disease, but that there was a “high volume of hospitalizations resulting from high transmission rates for a short period”, and noted that unvaccinated people had a higher risk of more severe outcomes.

Iuliano’s team stressed the importance of “national emergency preparedness, particularly hospital surge capacity and the ability to adequately staff local health care systems when health care needs arise. criticisms arise and before the system is overwhelmed”.

  • Molly Walker is associate editor and covers infectious diseases for MedPage Today. She is the winner of the J2 Achievement Award 2020 for her COVID-19 coverage. To follow


Iuliano disclosed no conflict of interest; a co-author revealed support from Becton, Dickinson and Company.

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