AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – COVID-19 cases are climbing once again across the CSRA. Monday, Augusta University Health reports 65 COVID inpatients, University Hospital reports 74 inpatient, and the Charlie Norwood VA reports 14. That’s a major spike since before the holidays.

“It is a significant increase in the number of patients that we are seeing that require admission to the hospital,” AU Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule said. “However, relative to the number of cases that are being diagnosed, it is not a proportional increase.”

Dr. Coule says Omicron is the most contagious variant we have seen, but the illness is much less severe. He says we’re seeing higher numbers of infection, but not the same high numbers of hospitalizations as we did in previous surges.

“It is not to be trifled with. It is not to be taken for granted that this is less severe. However, the evidence would suggest that you’re less likely to require admission to the hospital with this particular variant,” Dr. Coule said.

Many people are trying to get their hands on a COVID test.

“My suspicion is that the majority of this is being driven by the fact that Omicron is so much more transmissible than the previous variants that we’ve seen. But the timing was really bad with the holidays,” Dr. Coule said.

Mass testing sites are reopening across the state. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is deploying 2,500 National Guard troops this week to help with those COVID testing sites.

Augusta University Health’s testing sites are in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health. They are expecting aid from troops.

“If you’re exposed, you can isolate at home. People that are just exposed, it is perfectly reasonable to just isolate at home for five days and wear a mask for five days after that. Certainly that would reduce some of the testing burden,” Dr. Coule said.

Lines are long at many testing sites in the CSRA. At South Carolina DHEC’s USC Aiken site, the wait was up to three hours on Monday.

You can also expect a long wait at AU Health. Dr. Coule suggests shopping for an at-home test if you can. They are sold at Walgreens Pharmacy and CVS Pharmacy, but are becoming increasingly harder to find due to supply and demand.

“For the average person, they can simply monitor and treat their symptoms at home,” Dr. Coule said. “If you get an at home positive test, or if you know you’re exposed to someone that’s positive and then develop symptoms, it is perfectly reasonable to say, ‘I probably have COVID. I’m going to treat it like COVID.’ Unless you’re high risk.”

MedNow Urgent Care does not have plans to reopen mass testing sites, but you can get tested in their offices.