‘Darkest days’ of pandemic will be next several weeks, UW Health’s Dr. Jeff Pothof says

MADISON, Wis. — Nearly two years into the global COVID-19 pandemic and with cases once again surging, UW Health’s chief quality officer is warning the next few weeks could be grim.

During an interview on Live at Four on Tuesday, Dr. Jeff Pothof said that even though the Omicron variant, as a rule, is less severe than other strains of COVID-19, the sheer number of cases are driving hospitalizations up.

“I do think our darkest days are going to be the next several weeks,” he said. “I’m hopeful that Omicron can move through quickly, but we just don’t know yet how quickly it will move through, but what we do know is we are seeing a tremendous increase in cases like we’ve never seen before.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services added 8,058 new confirmed COVID-19 cases to its dashboard on Monday, a new single-day high and the first time since the pandemic began the state has recorded more than 8,000 cases in one day.

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Some, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said the focus should now be on COVID-19 hospital admissions rather than case totals.

The latest DHS data from December 29 shows 90.6% of the state’s hospital beds and 92.4% of intensive care beds are in use. In south central Wisconsin, COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased by 13% between December 15 and December 28.

The strain on hospitals with cases on the rise has led UW Health to turn away multiple patients, Pothof said.

RELATED: ‘She’s going to die’: A woman needs a critical surgery at UW Health. Her family says there’s no beds.

“With that huge Omicron surge, we found ourselves turning away patients multiple days now with multiple patients that despite wanting to get them in here, doing everything we can to get them in here, it wouldn’t just be safe to have them come this way,” he said. “We can’t take care of them right now.”

Pothof also said those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 “are now contributing to the harm of other people who want to get healthcare resources but can’t because (they’ve) made a decision not to get vaccinated.”

Watch the full interview above.