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Indiana hospitals prepare for winter COVID surge, omicron variant

Posted at 6:43 PM, Nov 30, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana hospitals are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 patients ahead of the December holidays.

Both IU Health and Community Health Network tell WRTV they are seeing a surge in patients and physically they are preparing for yet another wave of the virus.

“Our hospitals are more full this year than last year, and we have less staff this year than last year,” Dr. Ram Yeleti, Chief Physician Executive at Community Health Network, said.

Community Health notes currently it is seeing 140 patients with coronavirus.

"I wish I felt better prepared. I don't feel prepared. I am very nervous,” Dr. Yeleti said.

Over the weekend, he said the team at Community Health met to look at COVID-19 surge plans and to see if there is anything the hospital system could do now to help.

“1 in every 5, 1 in every 6 patients is a COVID patient right now,” Dr. Yeleti said. “We reopen up our playbooks again - what to do when the surge comes and if so how do we staff at different levels? Which units do we need to reopen again?”

“We just came off a very intense wave, and it looks like we’re going back into another one," Kristen Kelley with IU Health said.

The IU Health Nursing Director of Infection Prevention said aside from COVID-19 patients, people are coming to the hospital with complicated and critical cases. She said this is a result of many putting off care during the pandemic.

“There is tremendous pressure for beds. Patients are very sick,” Kelley said.

Both Kelley and Yeleti agree the fight against the virus from the frontlines is becoming increasingly difficult. Mental burnout, they say, is real.

“Whenever I walk in our critical care and I see room after room after room of patients on a ventilator that should be home with their family during this time of the year, it doesn’t become any less heartbreaking,” Kelley said.

Indiana’s rolling 7-day positivity rate is above 12% and experts point out this is before any new variants, like omicron, has even been identified in the U.S.

Regenstrief Institute’s Dr. Shaun Grannis said there are more questions than answers when it comes to omicron. The Vice President for Data & Analytics expects results from lab tests on the newly identified variant next week.

“Is this more transmissible, less transmissible than delta? We don’t know that yet,” Dr. Grannis said.

The Indiana Department of Health said in an email to WRTV it will begin testing for omicron soon. A spokesperson adds no cases of the new variant have been identified in the state yet.

“The fall and winter are times when people are typically indoors more and when respiratory viruses can spread more easily. We continue to urge Hoosiers to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID and other viruses such as the flu, including getting a vaccine, practicing social distancing, frequently washing their hands and wearing a mask when in public," IDOH said.