Rising COVID-19 hospitalizations indicate possible new surge

UC Davis Health infectious disease experts urge community to continue prevention strategies during holiday season


COVID-19 hospitalizations have soared in recent weeks at UC Davis Medical Center. The increase follows additional travel and indoor gatherings over Thanksgiving, indicating the risk of a winter surge.

In the last four weeks UC Davis Health's COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen by 50%. The number of patients admitted for coronavirus went from the low twenties on Thanksgiving to the low thirties as of mid-December.

“It is concerning that there's a general trend of an increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” said Sarah Waldman, assistant clinical professor of Infectious Diseases at UC Davis Health. “This increase is also reflected in the positivity rate in the Sacramento community, which parallels the surge we experienced last year during the winter months and holiday season.”

According to the Sacramento County Public Health COVID-19 Case Dashboard, the seven-day average of positive cases for the virus has jumped from 150 on Thanksgiving to 196 as of early this week. COVID-19 hospitalizations across Sacramento, which entered Thanksgiving at 124, has gone up to 137 patients.

UC Davis Health’s Department of Emergency Medicine has also seen an increase in COVID-19 patients. This past week they provided treatment to 41 COVID-19 patients, up from 31 during the week of Nov. 21.

"Similar to last year we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients as we approach the winter season," said Nathan Kuppermann, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “We are always ready to care for patients in any emergency, but this is stressing our capacity. We need to strongly encourage preventive measures in the community and emphatically encourage those who have not been vaccinated to get their vaccine.”

Waldman agrees that things like wearing a mask in indoor settings, social distancing, getting vaccinated and avoiding risky situations, such as group gatherings, are the best ways for people to protect themselves.

“We really need to focus on the preventive strategies that we know work,” explained Waldman. “In recent months many people have become fatigued with masking and social distancing, but we really need to double-down on these efforts as we face another potential winter surge, and as we wait to see how the new Omicron variant could add an additional layer to transmission rates this season.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned recently that the percentage of coronavirus cases in the United States caused by Omicron had increased sharply and might lead to a surge in infections as soon as January.

“We know the Omicron variant is in California and Sacramento County, but it is hard to determine how many cases are one variant versus another," said Waldman. “At this time, the best strategy is for people to follow public health recommendations and get vaccinated to keep our numbers as low as possible.”

How to protect yourself and others against COVID-19

  • Vaccination: Research shows that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing the virus and help protect adults and children ages 5 years and older from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19. They also help protect those around them. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines
  • Boosters: Studies show after COVID-19 vaccination protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time. Data from clinical trials showed that a booster shot increases the immune response and individuals should have improved protection against getting infected with COVID-19. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine boosters
  • Masking: Studies have shown wearing a face mask can help reduce novel coronavirus transmission to those wearing a mask and others nearby. Learn more about masking do's and don'ts
  • Testing: COVID-19 tests can detect either SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and are effective in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing
  • Social Distancing: Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from other people and remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. Learn more about staying safe during daily activities, gatherings and the holidays