NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This week, the Metro Health Department reported 707 patients with COVID-19 in Nashville-area hospitals, but there may be something not reflected in that number.

“We’re similar to several other reports that have been done in other cities (and) Canada, where there are a lot of people in the hospital with COVID, but it’s incidental, meaning that they had a heart attack, they had a stroke, they were in a car accident, they got taken to a hospital. Everybody that goes into the hospital is being tested these days for COVID. They’re found to be positive, but they’re not there because of their COVID,” said Metro Health Director Dr. Gill Wright. 

Wright said it’s estimated about half of the people hospitalized with COVID are not there for COVID, and that’s not unique to Nashville. The State of New York released its first breakdown of hospitalizations. The data shows 51% of people in the hospital with COVID in New York City were admitted for something else.

“That really started with the Omicron variant,” Dr. Wright said. “Previously, most of the patients that were in, were in because their symptoms from the COVID were severe enough that they needed to be there.”

The numbers aren’t in yet, but Wright said it’s expected the fatality rate with the omicron surge will be lower.

“That’s the percent of people that die from the virus. Now, that always take several weeks for us to see deaths, but it appears that it’s going to be lower,” Dr. Wright said. “And we have seen that in other countries.”

Although it appears many cases have been less severe, this variant has spread more rapidly, including to health care workers.

“It’s so infectious that a lot of the hospital staff are becoming sick with it, and because of that, they can’t staff to the same level they’ve been able to previously,” Dr. Wright said.

Hospitals remain overwhelmed. Getting vaccinated is your best bet for staying out of the hospital. The Tennessee Department of Health reports nearly 80% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. And Dr. Wright recommends getting a booster shot.

“It will drop your chance of getting Omicron in half if you’ve gotten your booster versus not having a booster,” Wright said.