LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Health officials are concerned about worn-out health care workers now that the omicron COVID-19 variant has been detected in Louisville and southern Indiana.

At U of L Health, the pressure from the most recent wave of COVID-19 patients is beginning to ease.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 14 COVID patients in ICU at U of L Health’s five hospitals. That is roughly one-third of the available ICU beds. But the system’s medical director said no one is relaxing.

“We are making preparations throughout the healthcare system to stand up more beds, more COVID units again,” said Dr. Jason Smith.

The appearance of the omicron variant has hospitals braced for another potential wave of COVID patients after the holidays.

“We're already tight for beds, and this is going to make that situation more concerning for us,” said Smith.

At Norton Healthcare, there are 16 adult COVID patients in ICU, which is about 10% of capacity.

“I don't have concerns about us being able to manage capacity,” said Norton Chief Medical Office Dr. Steven Hester.

While Hester said he has no concerns yet about the omicron variant leading to a new surge in hospitalizations, there is a lot of uncertainty.

“We want to make sure that we're being prepared and doing the right things to prepare for whatever situation this variant may bring us,” he said.

While the omicron variant is more transmissible, the jury is still out on whether it is less severe.

“What we do know is that if you have been previously infected or you have a vaccine, you're much less likely to get severe disease,” said Smith.

In short, area hospitals are bracing for the worst, but hoping for the best from omicron.

“The pandemic has taught us … if nothing else, to expect the unexpected,” said Hester.

The latest available numbers from Kentucky show that, in the Louisville region, roughly 90% of the available ICU beds are in use, but only about one-quarter of those are COVID patients.

Floyd County health officials haven't said where in the county the case was reported, but they did say the individual was unvaccinated. Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, adding that booster shots appear to be helpful in protecting against the new strain.

The rise of omicron could present a problem for the already strained health care workers. As of Monday morning, the Health and Human Services website said 18 of the 19 ICU beds at Clark Memorial Hospital are currently occupied. Officials said 75 of the 77 total ICU beds at University of Louisville Hospital are occupied, 110 of the 159 ICU beds at Norton Healthcare are occupied, and workers at Baptist Healthcare said 45 of the network's 54 ICU beds are taken.

"It's going to take over, and if you look at what it's done in South Africa — what it's doing in the UK and what it's starting to do right now — we are going to be in for some serious difficulties right now," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. "And we better be doing more to mitigate against that."

Health officials said members of the 20-40-year-old age group may be especially vulnerable to the omicron variant due to their low COVID-19 vaccination rate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the current COVID-19 vaccines do prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death.

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