Metro hospitals filling, testing lines lengthening as omicron hits Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After two weeks of holiday gatherings, Oklahomans are seeing full hospital beds and long lines in places to get tested for COVID-19 as cases continue to rise.

Experts say hospitals are full, but the COVID cases they are seeing aren’t as severe as they were at the height of the delta variant.

However, testing is now becoming an issue for emergency rooms and patients.

“Bed capacity is pretty tight. It’s an issue right now for sure,” said Dr. Chad Smith, Chief Medical Officer for Mercy OKC.

Full hospitals and testing lines over a mile long are signs that the metro is definitely seeing the effects of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

“It was wrapped around like this the other day so I expected that. I’m just trying to make sure and being cautious because I’ve been around people who have been sick,” said Chris Wooten of Edmond.

“I didn’t really do anything over the holidays, but I came down with a cold and cough, and with all this stuff floating around, you don’t really know,” said Kristi Marx of Edmond.

Officials at a popular testing site at the Crest Foods in Edmond say they are processing upwards of 500 tests a day.

“Since the holidays, we have been having upwards of 5 hour wait. Its been pretty hectic to be honest with you. The positive cases are tripling right now it seems like,” said Raymond Standtmiller for Wellness Center Labs.

Not all testing sites were packed on Monday.

Lines at IMMY Labs in Norman were manageable. The traffic at the location at Penn Square Mall was consistent but not absurd. Patients were moving through the short line quickly at the testing location next to Bricktown Ballpark.

But health officials are still worried.

“Our beds are full. Our ERs are full. We have patients in our emergency departments,” said Kerri Bayer, Chief Nurse Executive at Integris Health.

Officials at Integris Health and Mercy OKC say people coming to get tested at the emergency room is a problem. Their ER and ICU beds are full.

OU Health also tells News 4 they currently have 0 bed availability.

Some health experts say the already serious caregiver issues are getting even bigger.

“Our staff are getting infected with the Omicron variant of COVID, so they are out of work. So that is hitting us the most right now,” said Dr. Smith.

So what about home tests?

They are still hard to find on store shelves.

We checked with the Oklahoma State Health Department to see the status of the home tests the Biden administration promised weeks ago. They tell us they still haven’t gotten word from the federal government on when those will be sent out.

“We want you to get care if you are feeling sick. Come to the emergency department. We will absolutely take care of you. But if it’s just kind of a sniffle and you want confirmation of the disease, then we encourage you to go to some different setting outside of the emergency department,” said Bayer.

Both Mercy and Integris officials say the large majority of their COVID patients are unvaccinated.

They say there is information online about testing, vaccination and care locations you can go to if your symptoms are mild.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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