Local infectious disease expert warns of increased hospitalizations


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – We’ve decked the halls and rung in the new year with family and friends, and now we’re seeing the consequences.

“The trend is one of a tremendous number in our community testing positive for COVID-19,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Thacker with Memorial Health in Savannah.

Thacker says the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly nationwide and here in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry — but there is somewhat of a silver lining.

“There are less individuals that are finding their way to needing to be hospitalized,” he said, “and I take that to be a testament to how effective our vaccines are, as well as we’ve got members of our community that have got some amount of protections from prior COVID-19 infections that they’ve had.”

While omicron symptoms seem to be milder than the delta variant, Thacker warns that its spread still poses a serious community health threat.

“There’s going to be enough people in our communities that get infected that those who are most at risk for a bad outcome… it’s going to reach them and it’s going to harm them,” Thacker said. “So we’re going to see hospitalizations increase.”

The specialist says vaccines, boosters and masks are still our best defense, but if more people don’t start taking advantage of them, we could see more mandates and restrictions in the coming weeks.

He also says as local school districts return to in-person learning this week, it is critical that students, teachers and staff wear masks at all times to help prevent an even larger surge of post-holiday COVID-19 infections.

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