Top official at Cleveland Clinic urges caution as omicron variant rapidly spreads through Northeast Ohio

Cleveland Clinic
Posted at 7:09 AM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 07:14:48-05

CLEVELAND — Compared to this time last year, one of the Cleveland Clinic’s top officials told News 5 that Northeast Ohio and its hospitals are in worse shape because of the omicron variant, even with several easily accessible COVID-19 vaccines available to individuals.

“We're certainly seeing a large effect of omicron locally, and it's starting to affect the hospitals as well,” said Dr. Robert Wyllie, Chief of Medical Operations at the Cleveland Clinic. “Omicron is rapidly expanding, particularly in Cuyahoga County.”

At the Cleveland Clinic, Wyllie said his hospitals are dealing with the pandemic at a volume they’ve never seen: more than 840 hospitalizations at their Northeast Ohio locations alone.

“I’m not sure people are aware of how over-stressed the hospitals are,” he added.

Data from the Ohio Department of Health shows a tsunami underway when it comes to new positive COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County.

On Friday, Governor Mike DeWine mobilized a thousand members of the Ohio National Guard to help area hospitals, especially in northern parts of the state where cases are increasing at a faster rate.

Earlier this month, several hospitals also announced a temporary halt on elective surgeries until at least January.

Just a couple of days ago, News 5 reported how at the Cleveland Clinic, they were seeing one out of every three people tested there coming back positive with COVID-19. On Sunday, Wyllie said that number is even higher, and among those showing symptoms, it’s more than 50 percent.

In the past several days, the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers have dealt with postponed games over a significant number of players testing positive for COVID-19. And the Cleveland Orchestra canceled their two performances Sunday over a positive case in the orchestra.

It just shows you how fast the omicron virus spreads,” he said. “We know it spreads significantly faster than delta. Maybe someplace between two or three, or even perhaps four times faster.”

What we don’t know, Wyllie said, is whether or not the omicron variant will leave the same trail of damage as the delta variant.

“If it's much less severe, we could actually stabilize hospitalizations or see it drop,” he said. “I think we’ll know the answer in another week or so.”

But with the holidays and more gatherings on the horizon, the doctor said it’s time to rethink forgetting about the coronavirus.

“The hospitals are under significant strain right now, particularly in Northeast Ohio,” Wyllie said. “We'd like them to help in how they can help. If you've gotten the two doses of a vaccine, get your third dose and get boosted. Use common sense measures when you're indoors with something which is much more infectious than before.”