Omicron’s less severe symptoms filling acute care beds

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Hospitals are filling as omicron cases surge, but more and more metrics are showing the new variant’s milder symptoms.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects more breakthrough cases now that the nation’s dominant strain is omicron, but the World Health Organization and most U.S. research have concluded that its symptoms are typically milder than previous strains.

Colorado’s health data is increasingly showing both, as increased breakthrough rates create larger but milder caseloads.

The difference in transmissibility between vaccinated persons and unvaccinated persons has been closing as breakthrough cases become more common.

In June 2021, a vaccinated person was roughly 13 times less likely to get COVID as an unvaccinated person. As vaccination numbers swelled but the more infectious delta variant emerged, breakthrough rates became more common. By December, a vaccinated person was 3.5 times less likely to contract COVID.

The post-Christmas surge of these milder cases has produced a surge in acute care bed use but not intensive care beds, as was the case with previous case surges. Acute care deals with short-term serious illnesses or injuries, as opposed to critical care, which requires life-saving actions and constant monitoring.

The number of available acute care beds in the state has dropped dramatically in the weeks since Christmas. On Christmas Day, there were 717 acute care beds available in the state. On Jan. 5, there were 250 fewer — with 150 of those occupied in just a three-day span.

The same has not happened for ICU beds. In the last week, the number of available ICU beds has gone up and stayed consistent in the last three days.

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