Boston hospitals are on an “unsustainable” path as COVID-19 cases, driven by the extremely contagious omicron variant, skyrocket across the region, warns a local emergency medicine doctor.
“I think all public officials should use this data to look and see where they can expand hospital capacity and where they can stop the spread of the virus,” said Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who’s helping track hospital capacity for different states and counties.
Several Massachusetts counties are at risk of exceeding normal hospital capacity, and Suffolk County over the holiday weekend was in the “unsustainable” category, according to Faust.
Faust explained Sunday, December 26, 2021, that “unsustainable” means area hospitals could get overloaded based on current hospital capacities and surging COVID-19 case counts.
Working on the hospital capacity project with Faust is Benjy Renton, a researcher with Ariadne Labs. Massachusetts counties should be prepared to implement short-term measures to protect hospital capacity, Renton said.
“We hope this tool can be used as a way to help trigger potential actions to protect hospital capacity and staffing,” he said.
An order by Gov. Charlie Baker to suspend elective surgeries at overburdened hospitals takes effect today.
As virus cases exploded in the days before Christmas, the Boston-area COVID-19 wastewater tracker is showing signs that even higher case counts are on the way.
The wastewater tracker — which indicates future virus infections in the community — had to increase its upper range, or Y axis, on Christmas Eve, as record-high levels of the virus were recorded in both the south and north of Boston regions. The seven-day southern and northern averages have never been higher.
While initial data out of Europe has shown the omicron coronavirus variant may result in less severe infection, based on the ratio of hospitalizations to cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said people should not “get complacent,” in this latest wave.
He, too, warned about hospitals getting “overrun” amid the “extraordinarily contagious” omicron variant.
“If you have many, many, many more people with a less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people,” said Fauci, on ABC’s “This Week.”
He added, “Even though we’re pleased by the evidence from multiple countries, that it looks like there is a lesser degree of severity, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t get complacent about that because it might still lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the United States.”