FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – A local health official says he fears for hospital capacity as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 spreads rapidly across the country.

Dr. Raul Seupaul is the Chief Clinical Officer at UAMS. He said the hospital is almost reaching capacity already.

“At UAMS, we are at almost 100% capacity and that’s without a surge of Omicron or Delta at the moment,” he said. “So, if we were to add 10 or 15 patients we would really be struggling and that would hold true for the other hospitals systems.”

Natalie Hardin with Washington Regional in Fayetteville also provided a statement on capacity concerns at the hospital.

Today Northwest Arkansas hospitals have a total of 78 COVID inpatients, which is the highest level since the end of September. Last year, hospitals in NWA saw an increase in hospitalizations following the holiday season, so there is certainly concern that cases could continue to increase as family and friends gather. We are especially concerned about the unvaccinated, who account for the vast majority of hospitalized COVID patients. While the future impact that the omicron variant will have on our state and region remains unknown at this time, it serves as a reminder that this pandemic is not over. We strongly encourage community members to get vaccinated including booster doses when due. The available COVID-19 vaccines offer the best chance of protection from contracting the virus or from becoming hospitalized or seriously ill. We also encourage individuals to follow recommended guidelines to stay safe, including masking in public places, social distancing, and washing hands frequently.”

NATALIE HARDIN, SPOKESPERSON, WASHINGTON REGIONAL

In his press conference this week, however, Governor Asa Hutchinson said hospital capacity is not a huge concern for him, especially as vaccination numbers continue to rise.

“I’m confident we’ll have the hospital capacity in the near term and I think with our vaccination rate those numbers will continue to flatten,” the governor said.