Although reports have indicated that the Omicron
variant appears to be milder than previous strains of COVID-19, the experience
on the frontlines at Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) tells a different story
with certain population groups.
At CCH, COVID-19 is sickening greater numbers of
elderly patients, the immunocompromised and medically fragile, and patients
with an underlying condition worsened by the virus.
Of the 43 patients in hospital with COVID-19 as of
January 24, the vast majority are in the hospital’s medical wards, meaning they
are not critically ill but still require hospital treatment for their illness.
Dr. Lorne Scharf, Chief of Staff and Emergency
Physician at CCH, says that the majority of vaccinated patients requiring hospitalization
are older and have other chronic illnesses.
“We’re primarily observing severe illness in two types
of patients at this point: unvaccinated patients and immunocompromised
patients,” said Dr. Scharf. “Which makes sense given the large number of aging
individuals with comorbidities in our community,” he adds.
The majority of COVID-19 patients in hospital at CCH
and throughout the province are fully vaccinated, but Dr. Scharf says it
doesn’t mean that the vaccines aren’t working.
“Naturally the majority of our patients will be
vaccinated because the majority of the population is vaccinated. However, it is
very rare that a vaccinated, relatively young and healthy individual is winding
up in hospital with COVID-19, especially the intensive care unit,” he explains.
Omicron is also extremely contagious as evidenced by
the large number of staff unable to work due to catching the virus; as of
January 24, that number is 40. This is putting increased strain on frontline
staff particularly on medical wards where the majority of the patients are
“It is a reminder to everyone to be please get
vaccinated and get boosted, especially if you are older and have underlying
conditions,” emphasized Dr. Scharf. “Not everyone will have mild illness from
Omicron, which is exactly what we are observing on the frontlines.”
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