COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in California amid omicron surge

Local news

COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in California as the omicron variant spreads, combining with a holiday wave of the Delta strain to spark concerns of yet another surge that could strain the state’s healthcare system.

There were 3,589 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals as of Friday, an increase of roughly 12% from two weeks before, according to The Times’ hospitalization tracker. Some Southern California counties have seen bigger jumps, with hospitalizations rising by nearly 31% in L.A. County and by roughly 26% in Riverside County during the same period.

California had recorded 49 cases of the omicron variant as of Wednesday, although not all samples are sequenced to identify variants. That’s much lower than the 184,700 identified cases of the Delta variant, which remains dominant in the state, but health officials expect the number will rise. Omicron is thought to be more contagious than Delta and better at evading immunity generated by vaccines or previous infections, although experts say vaccines still offer protection against severe illness and death.

While there are early indications omicron might cause less severe illness than other variants, if enough people are infected, hospitals could be overwhelmed nonetheless, health officials say. That comes as the system already faces multiple challenges, including significant staffing shortages and increased demand for other healthcare services like flu treatment and procedures that were put on hold earlier in the pandemic.

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