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COVID-19 hospitalizations double at Enloe over two weeks; cases increase throughout North State

Enloe Medical Center
Wikimedia Commons
Enloe Medical Center

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing cases to rise around the nation, and the North State is not immune.

Dr. Marcia Nelson is the chief medical officer at Enloe Medical Center in Chico. On Friday, she told NSPR that the more transmissible and contagious omicron variant is leading to more people catching COVID-19 and being hospitalized. She said last week Enloe had around 30 patients in the hospital with the virus.

“About two weeks ago, that was 16, in the middle teens, so we're seeing a consistent increase,” Nelson said.

The surge is expected to peak in California toward the end of January. With Butte County likely being a week or two behind that curve, Nelson said, the hospital is currently expecting to see an increase in cases from that time through early February.

The good news, Nelson said, is that the number of patients hospitalized with the virus seems to be less than the percentage who required hospitalization during the last surge in summer and fall that was driven by the delta variant. Also, of those hospitalized Friday, she said, only two were on ventilators in the intensive care unit.

“So fortunately we don’t have a high number of patients with COVID in critical care,” she said. “But even two is too many.”

When asked what the public could do to help the hospital, Nelson said to take the virus seriously.

“Just be acting as if this is real, because it is real,” Nelson said. “We're living this every single day. We're having staff members, physicians, who are having breakthrough cases, fortunately mild. But this omicron variant is different than anything we've dealt with before.”

Of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Enloe last week, 89% were not fully vaccinated against the virus, Nelson said, meaning they hadn’t received either both doses of the Pfizer or Modera vaccine or one dose of the J&J vaccine.

“The only way we can get ahead of it is by people getting vaccinated,” Nelson said. “And please, please wear your masks.”

In Butte County, 42% of residents are unvaccinated, according to the latest data published by the county’s public health department.

Lisa Almaguer, communications manager for the Butte County Public Health Department, confirmed in a voicemail on Friday that cases are on the rise in the county. She said the number of residents in isolation with COVID-19 and able to transmit the virus has jumped significantly in a short amount of time.

“About two weeks ago when I left on vacation there were about, approximately 140 people in isolation, currently infected,” Almaguer said. “And when I came back from vacation, two weeks later, we were almost at a thousand.”

As of Monday, 884 people in Butte County were in isolation. Almaguer said the recent spike indicates that transmission is occurring quite quickly in the county and is likely omicron. She echoed Nelson in asking that residents take safety precautions.

“Everyone needs to be vaccinated and boosted,” Almaguer said. “Everyone needs to wear a mask when they are indoors, in public places and around others who they might not know the vaccination status of and where required to do so; and stay home if they're sick and get tested.”

Meanwhile, other hospitals and counties in the North State are also seeing an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Redding Record Searchlight is reporting that positive COVID-19 test results in Shasta County have tripled since December, and that new cases have doubled over the last week. The paper reports that the county health department is attributing the surge to the omicron variant and holiday gatherings.

In Marysville, Adventist Health and Rideout are seeing an increase in hospitalizations. Yuba and Sutter County health officials said Friday the hospital’s surge is being driven by both COVID-19 cases and non-COVID-related medical conditions.

Officials in Yuba and Sutter County are asking residents not to go to the emergency room to be tested for COVID-19 as hospital staff are overwhelmed.

Sarah is an award-winning reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio for six years and was previously the station’s News Director before leaving to study at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.