Health officials urge caution this holiday with threat of Omicron looming

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 5:24 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - As we continue to reach new heights in the pandemic due to Omicron, local health officials are urging everyone to take precautions ahead of new year celebrations.

“We would anticipate this to get significantly worse in the next four to six weeks,” Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Gerald Bryant said.

This is only the beginning of the fifth surge.

“Like anyone else in the state, we’re seeing a significant increase in COVID diagnoses - both our patient population as well as in our employee population,” Bryant said.

Bryant said they’re already seeing an increase in cases.

“Our E.R. volume is up about 30% per day,” Bryant said. “We’ve had days with more than 200 patients this past week in the emergency department.”

With New Year’s Eve upon us, Bryant is encouraging everyone to do their best at keeping themselves safe.

“If at all possible, don’t go out. If you do go out, do your best to keep yourself safe,” Bryant said. “We know that social distancing as much as possible, wearing a mask, hand hygiene, etc helps a lot. Now, we realize that New Year’s Eve is obviously a time when people congregate and have fun together. As much as you can, be careful.”

Bryant said they are ready for whatever Omicron may bring.

“I will tell you that we’re prepared to reduce services as staffing becomes an issue. We reinstituted controlled visitation just yesterday, actually,” Bryant said.

While the need for acute services isn’t quite as great, the staffing shortages remain with the new variant.

“Thursday, a week ago, we were running about 12 - 14 patient employees who had COVID,” Bryant said. “By Monday, we were at 30. By yesterday afternoon, we were greater than 80 employees who were out with COVID.”

Bryant does add that although we are seeing this surge, Southwest Louisiana’s numbers are looking better than in other areas of the state.

“We follow in rapid order, generally, so it’s significantly worse in Baton Rouge/New Orleans market markets -Shreveport markets. But it’s headed our way, that’s all we can say,” Bryant said.

Bryant is urging everyone who is not vaccinated to get the vaccine.

He also wants to remind people the vaccine doesn’t protect you from the virus, but in most cases, it limits the symptoms of the virus and that might just save you from having to go to the hospital.

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