JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Alan Levine, CEO of Ballad Health, published a string of tweets Sunday outlining his expectations for Omicron variant and citing concerns over cancelled elective surgeries.

“It is easy to assume because Omicron appears to have a lower virulence, that its not a big deal,” Levine said. “Not true. Its infectiousness is very high, so we expect an increase in hospitalizations, and people will die, particularly those who are unvaccinated.”

As case counts increase and detected cases of the Omicron variant arrive in East Tennessee, Levine said positivity rates are less of a concern to the healthcare system compared to the sheer volume of cases found in the community.

“We don’t yet have enough experience to know how that translates, but its the important data point,” Levine said. “The percent positivity with Omicron will likely be off the charts, and most will have minor symptoms, if any. But the sheer numbers as it rips through the unvaccinated population will necessarily mean overall numbers of people very ill or dead will increase.”

Levine urged residents within the Ballad Health region to schedule vaccination and booster appointments, citing a concern that the increased strain of the system will lead to another cancellation of elective surgeries.

“Too many people have been victimized by not having access to non-covid services because hospitals get overrun with Covid, this diverting limited staff,” Levine said. “All we can do right now is implore upon people that the vaccine really is the best way to mitigate serious illness/hospitalization/death.”