JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — More patients are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Ballad Health hospitals than at any point this year, the system reported Thursday. The total reached 358, up nine from Wednesday.

The system admitted a near-record high number of new COVID patients with 61. The number of COVID patients discharged was also near a high, at 52.

Ballad Health COVID-19 hospitalizations reached their highest level since mid-September Thursday and have more than doubled the past two months. (WJHL Photo)

The high numbers in both categories align with a change in severity due to the Omicron variant becoming the dominant strain in the region. Ballad COO Eric Deaton told News Channel 11 Wednesday Omicron was accounting for roughly four in five cases at this point that enter the hospital.

“We see about a two to three-day lower length of stay with the Omicron variant than we saw with the Delta variant,” Deaton said.

“We’re seeing a lot of turnover of patients coming in, getting treated and then going home but there’s still a high number of admissions.”

Deaton cautioned, though, that there are still significant numbers of patients, primarily unvaccinated ones, who are getting ill enough to need intensive care and ventilators with the Omicron variant. The system reported 72 patients in ICU Thursday, up two from Wednesday.

Forty seven patients were on ventilators, a decrease of four from Wednesday.

The number of children hospitalized with COVID at Niswonger Children’s Hospital increased by one, to nine. Deaton confirmed that in general, the cases among children are proving different than those during the Delta surge.

“Right now we continue to see it’s a turnaround where patients come in, they’re treated and they’re leaving but we have not seen a lot of critically ill patients like we saw with Delta,” Deaton said.

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Ballad reported 87 COVID deaths in its market area over the past week.

“We continue to see very, very sick patients,” Deaton said. “We continue to see patients who are going into the intensive care unit, who are on ventilators, who are dying from this.”

The following is a breakdown of COVID-19 data provided by Ballad Health on Jan. 20:

  • Total COVID-19 hospitalizations: 358 (+9)
  • Total number of COVID-19 PUIs (patient under investigation): 4 (-5)
  • Total COVID-19 admissions: 61 (+19)
  • Total COVID-19 discharges: 52 (+6)
  • COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit: 72 (+2)
  • COVID-19 patients on a ventilator: 47 (-4)
  • Pediatric patients in Niswonger Children’s Hospital: 9 (+1)