NEW ORLEANS — Already aching from fatigue, medical professionals hope the new Omicron variant doesn’t mean a new surge in hospitalizations.
It’s causing a lot of angst and I understand that but it’s not time for people to panic,” said System Medical Director of Hospital Quality at Ochsner Health Dr. Sandra Kemmerly.
Dr. Kemmerly says it is time to be prepared. With the variant being so new, Dr. Kemmerly says it’ll take up to two weeks before we know how transmissible and severe it is.
“We have no way to predict if Omicron will be similar but if it turns out to be like Delta, we’ll flex, and we’ll figure out a way to take care of the patients,” said Dr. Kemmerly.
That’s the same view at rural hospitals, like Our Lady of the Angels in Washington Parish.
“We’re not sure what to expect. With each one of these four prior spikes we’ve had to be adaptable, we’ve had to be able to flex staffing,” said Dr. Garland Anderson.
Dr. Anderson says there is a concern though, getting enough supplies to treat a surge of patients amid an already crippled supply chain.
“The spikes in the past have been overwhelming in a very rapid manner. It’s not a remote phenomenon,” said Dr. Anderson. “This happens across our region, across our state, across our country and the supply chain can get interrupted very quickly.”
With the first probable case of the Omicron variant reported in Louisiana, Friday evening doctors say procedures from the Delta variant are part of the advantage. That case is reported in someone from the Greater New Orleans area who recently traveled within the United States.
“We have surveillance sequencing ongoing through corporation with our urgent cares and emergency departments. We’re going to be able to tell pretty quickly when Omicron does arrive and what it does in our population,” said clinical research scientist at Ochsner Health Dr. Amy Feehan.
A big unknown is whether vaccines are effective in that population.
“COVID-19 continues to be a vaccine-preventable illness for the majority of cases. We don’t know if this new Omicron variant is going to change that picture,” said Dr. Anderson.
Vaccine testing is underway by manufacturers. Dr. Kemmerly says with the fact all variants share the same structure, there’s some optimism there.
“At the end of the day there should be some protection against Omicron and maybe other future variants that have not yet been identified,” said Dr. Kemmerly.