COVID-19 update from Dr. Shelton: Omicron

COVID-19 update from Dr. Shelton: Omicron
  • Extraordinary numbers of positive cases
  • Hospitals overflowing
  • Good news: Vaccinations help
  • More good news: Outbreak might be short

Dear Community, 

I am very concerned this week about our situation with COVID. 

The Omicron variant is very transmissible and extraordinarily infectious.

That simply means it is very easy to get it from someone else. Earlier this week we had 40 positive cases in one day at the clinic. Previously, the most we had ever had in the entire pandemic, at the height of Delta, was 20 in one day. And on Wednesday, Jan. 5, there were 65 positive cases. This is truly extraordinary. 

In the Multicare Hospital System, the most patients at the height of the Delta wave was 185. On Monday, the Multicare system had 225 patients with COVID-19. As you can see from these numbers, this is extraordinary and affecting many people. Right now, the emergency rooms in our hospitals are overflowing, and people are lying on waiting room floors. Hospitals are exceeding capacity and have reached a critical point. 

There is good news. First, if you have been vaccinated and received your booster, your chance of getting infected is much less and your chance of getting very sick is much less. The overwhelming majority of patients with COVID in the hospital are unvaccinated. Also, the illness caused by the Omicron, in general, is less severe. It mostly consists of headaches, sore throat, congestion, and body aches. 

Most people will not be sick enough to be in the hospital. The problem is that Omicron is so contagious that more people are getting it than in previous waves, so even the small percentage of people who get seriously ill results in a large number. 

Another piece of good news is that in other areas, the Omicron wave has rapidly escalated for about three weeks, peaked, and then declined. I expect that here. If so, we will peak next week and then rapidly decline. So I am hopeful this particular outbreak will be short-lived. 

So what can we do?

  • Get your booster if you are eligible – which is now five months after your last vaccination.
  • Please avoid crowds, especially indoors.
  • Please wear your mask when you are outside your home.

Remember: When you mask, social distance, get your booster, it is not just for you. It is for your community. You are helping protect someone who is more vulnerable than you. 

You will notice some changes in our community this week. At the clinic, we are trying to emphasize COVID testing and encouraging telehealth over in-person visits. At the school, we are moving temporarily to remote learning. At the Admin buildings, we are encouraging working from home. Along with other changes throughout the Tribe’s entities. 

I hope these changes will remain temporary and the shift backward is for a short time, as this is a rapid wave. I am hopeful that by the end of the month things will have quieted down and we can continue our reopening process. 

I hope you have a safe and healthy new year. 

Dr. Alan Shelton, Medical Director, Puyallup Tribe