Health care professionals seeing downward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Posted at 7:22 AM, Jan 29, 2022

Health care experts say even though the omicron variant is spreading rapidly, they think we could be through the worst of this spike in terms of hospitalizations.

Med Stop Urgent Care in San Luis Obispo sent many patients with COVID-19 symptoms to the hospital throughout the last month, but within the last week, doctors say they've only sent a few.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this surge is on a downward trend at this point," said Med Stop Urgent Care Madonna Plaza Medical Director Dr. Brian Roberts.

Dr. Roberts says the real number of people who have COVID-19 is significantly higher than what appears on paper because often times asymptomatic patients aren't getting tested and patients who get tested at home aren't reporting it to the county.

"So if you have many, many more cases, even though the percentage is low, the hospitalizations and deaths will remain high," said Dr. Roberts.

A low oxygen level is what constitutes hospitalization in most cases.

"Most of the patients that we send to the hospital, who we believe are sick enough to be hospitalized, are unvaccinated," said Dr. Roberts.

Clinics like Med Stop tend to be very busy early in a new surge and over time, patients start to get better, but a small percentage will start to deteriorate, and that's when hospitalization rates go up.

Because the pattern tends to move in waves, clinics like Med Stop can often predict when the next surge in hospitalizations will increase.

"The first wave is people being seen in clinics, the second wave is hospitalizations and then death rates," said Dr. Roberts.

Lompoc Valley Regional Medical Center already saw a peak in hospitalization numbers for this surge near the end of last week.

"On Monday, we got down to 15. Today we're at 12," said Chief Executive Officer of Lompoc Valley Medical Center Steve Popkin.

"Positive patients in the ICU now is lower than it was back with the Delta variant," said Popkin.