AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Positive COVID-19 in-patient cases increased substantially over the holiday weekend at one local hospital and doubled in the past few weeks. Health experts report a rise in coronavirus cases all over the CSRA and most likely it’s due to the recent Omicron variant.

“We had not seen an increase until just the last couple of days,” reported Dr. Jose Vazquez, Chief of Infectious Disease at Augusta University.

The holiday weekend brought more than just Christmas cheer and gifts. Some local hospitals report increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“On the 20th of December, our positivity rate for testing was at about 4 percent,” Dr. Vazquez said. “Very low. It has been like that for two months. On the 26th, our positivity rate went up to 24 percent.”

Augusta University saw 35 COVID hospitalizations with nine on ventilators and ten in ICU. Dr. Vazquez said hospitalizations are going up and he expects they will continue to do so over the next month. And he adds it’s more than likely the new Omicron variant, which mutated from the Delta variant.

He said, “It is much more contagious. It is much less lethal than the Delta variant, fortunately for us and fortunately for the unvaccinated. Even in unvaccinated individuals, it’s actually almost like a cold or an upper respiratory tract infection.”

University Hospital is also seeing a substantial rise in cases from the holiday weekend. Leaders there report a total of 44 patients in house with COVID. Six of those are on a ventilator and nine are in ICU. About one month ago, there were 18 in-patient COVID cases, two on a ventilator and two in ICU. More are awaiting results now.

At Doctors Hospital, there are 13 COVID hospitalizations. Across the CSRA, more people are getting tested, with East Central Health District extending its COVID testing hours.

“Over the next week we’ll probably see more cases and the week after New Years we’ll probably see more cases. I think somewhere in the middle of January we’ll probably be able to flatten out we hope,” he said.

University Hospital is also limiting its Emergency Department visitors to one per patient due to the influx of symptomatic people needing a COVID-19 test.