These 7 States Are Seeing the Biggest Surge in COVID Hospitalizations

The number of patients nationwide continues to rise as Omicron spreads.

The first month of 2022 has brought some of the grimmest milestones of the entire COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the spread of the Omicron variant. The viral offshoot's high transmissibility has made daily reported cases skyrocket well past their previous heights. And while studies have shown that the latest variant is less likely to cause severe illness, the sheer number of new infections has caused a surge in COVID hospitalizations as it continues to spread through more states.

"Overall, you're going to see more sick people even if you as an individual have a lower chance of being sick," Katriona Shea, PhD, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University who assembles pandemic models and projections to be shared with the White House, told the Associated Press.

Over the past two weeks, the national daily hospitalization average from COVID-19 has risen 47 percent to 156,894 as of Jan. 18, according to The New York Times. And while the national daily case average appears to be plateauing—despite warnings from some that the slowdown may be the result of states not reporting data due to the holiday weekend—experts warn that the typical weeks-long lag of patient increases that follow each surge could put even greater stress on the healthcare system.

"I think it's going to get much worse," Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said during an interview with Fox News Sunday on Jan. 16. "So, right now, we have about 150,000 people in the hospital with COVID. That's more than we've ever had."

"I expect those numbers to get substantially higher," Jha predicted. "The problem is we are running out of health care workforce, we don't have the staffing. So that is going to be a challenge for many weeks ahead."

Read on to see which states have experienced surges in COVID hospitalization of more than 90 percent over the past week as of Jan. 19, according to data from The New York Times.

RELATED: If You Notice Pain Here, It May Be an Omicron Symptom, Doctors Warn.

6
South Carolina

downtown area of Charleston, South Carolina in the afternoon
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  • Percent increase in the last 14 days: 93 percent
  • Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 44

On Jan. 18, health officials in South Carolina reported that there were 2,381 COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide, including 428 patients in the ICU and 206 on ventilators. The total makes up 26 percent of all hospitalizations in the state.

5
Hawaii

Wide angle aerial view of the Waikiki area of Honolulu, Hawaii shot from an altitude of about 1000 feet.
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  • Percent increase in the last 14 days: 96 percent
  • Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 26

Daily reported cases are breaking records in Hawaii, with an all-time high of 6,252 added to the state's tally on Jan. 18. Currently, the state has 365 patients battling the virus, including 41 in the ICU and 19 on ventilators.

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4
Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi, USA cityscape at dusk.
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  • Percent increase in the last 14 days: 96 percent
  • Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 48

Hospitalizations are on the rise in Mississippi, where cases have also risen 57 percent over the past two weeks to a daily average of 6,902 as of Jan. 19, according to The Times. Oktibbeha county was found to have the second-most explosive hospitalization surge of all counties in the U.S., seeing a 1,303 percent increase in patients over the past 14 days to 30 per 100,000 people as of Jan. 18.

3
Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana skyline
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  • Percent increase in the last 14 days: 102 percent
  • Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 41

On Jan. 18, Louisiana health officials reported that the state had crossed the 1 million case threshold, bringing its pandemic total to 1,025,748. Data also showed that there were 2,183 patients hospitalized with the virus statewide as of Jan. 17.

"While thankfully Omicron is on average less likely to put you in the hospital than other variants, that is just an average," Joseph Kanter, MD, the state's health officer, said in a news release. "It is still possible to get very sick from COVID-19 as the large number of people currently hospitalized in Louisiana show us. The best possible protection against being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 is getting vaccinated and boosted as soon as you are eligible."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Said This Is When Omicron Cases Will Start Going Down.

2
California

The skyline of Los Angeles, California at sunset.
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  • Percent increase in the last 14 days: 110 percent
  • Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 37

The recent surge of hospitalizations from COVID-19 in California has pushed its healthcare system to its breaking point. According to projections from the state's health department, the patient count will likely peak around 40 percent higher than the surge seen last winter, bringing the total to more than 70,000, CalMatters reports.

"We find ourselves on the precipice of the most challenging time to date for California's healthcare system," Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, said in a news release. "Our capabilities may soon be eclipsed."

1
Alabama

The skyline of Mobile, Alabama at dusk
iStock
  • Percent increase in the last 14 days: 121 percent
  • Average hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 52

Alabama has seen the sharpest increase in hospitalizations over the past two weeks of any state. According to Suzanne Judd, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, the patient load will likely stay high for the next two or three weeks before they return to pre-Omicron levels, she told AL.com. She urged for more residents to get vaccinated and to follow public health guidelines to help ease the burden on the local healthcare system.

"There will be surges, and when we're in a surge, it's important that we mask," Judd said. "It's important that schools and businesses have guidelines for when they're going to say it's time to mask and now we can ease up. Because having those guidelines ahead of time will help us be prepared when the surges come. They will come regularly, so we have to be ready as a society for how we're going to move."

RELATED: If You Have Omicron, This Is When You'll Begin to Feel Symptoms.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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