Chicago, IL

Omicron "Mild"? Hardly.

Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa
Photo by L.Filipe C.Sousa/Unsplash

I keep reading that the Omicron variant is much milder: “ The details of the Omicron variant are becoming clearer, and they are encouraging,” writes the NY Times.

I keep reading that hospitalizations are way less; cases are milder; and the disease is not as bad as that with previous variants, such as Delta.

If that’s the case, I’m not seeing that at all where I am (outside of Chicago). This wave is the worst one we’ve yet endured.

Almost half of all the beds in my hospital are occupied by Covid patients. More than half of my ICU is Covid patients, and all of them — every single one — is on a ventilator. We have surpassed our record numbers from last Fall, and the end is not in sight at all. And, every hour, more and more Covid patients keep coming to our hospital.

On top of all this, we are all exhausted after nearly two years battling Covid on the front lines. We are spent — physically and emotionally. Moreover, so many staff are out sick with Covid, and it is causing stress and wreaking havoc on every level. Everyone is on edge.

In fact, I asked my Hospital Medicine colleagues about whether they thought this latest Omicron wave was “mild.” One said straight up, “It’s bullshit.” The other said, “Hell no!”

So, Omicron “mild”? Hardly.

Now, I can’t say for sure that all of the people coming in sick with Covid are infected with the Omicron variant. They very well may be left over Delta infections. And, based on what I have been seeing my multiple vaccinated family members and colleagues getting infected with Covid, their illnesses are indeed mild.

Here is the operative word of that last sentence: vaccinated.

For the overwhelming majority of those who are vaccinated, Covid is a mild illness. In my hospital, about 90% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. In my ICU, my patients are not old nursing home residents: the vast majority are between 40 and 60 years old. They are fathers, husbands, sisters, and daughters. And every single one of them is unvaccinated. Every. Single. One.

So, really, for an unvaccinated person, is the Omicron strain all that “milder”? I really don’t think so. And, as one my colleagues told me, “‘Mild dead’ is still dead.” Amen, sister.

This is the absolute worst wave yet. Covid cases among my group of ICU specialists across the country have shot straight upwards, and we will definitely surpass the last horrific wave. We are so done with this virus, and the problem is the virus is not done with us. We are doing our best and trying to stand as tall as possible. But, it is so very hard.

Omicron “mild”? I’m surely not seeing it.

Originally published at on January 6, 2022.

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Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa is a NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine specialist in clinical practice for over 20 years. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, and Sleep Medicine. He is a prolific writer, with dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles and medical blog posts. He is a Physician Leader and published author. His latest book is "Code Blue," a medical thriller.

Chicago, IL

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