By Joan Murray

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – South Florida hospitals are once more dealing with a surge related to the latest COVID variant, and it’s having an impact.

Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale issued this statement:

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“Due to COVID-19 surge, Holy Cross Health has reached critical staffing levels in Labor and Delivery.  In the best interests of patient safety, the labor and delivery unit is on diversion until further notice.  The NICU and post-partum remain open.”

Adequate staffing remains a concern for South Florida hospitals because more people are being hospitalized. However, the omicron variant appears to be less lethal than the delta variant last summer and overall it appears patients are spending less time in the hospital when admitted.

“Like other institutions a lot of staff has left but we think we have enough to take care of patients,” says Broward Health’s Dr. Joshua Lenchus.

Broward Health says system wide they are treating about 200 patients.

Memorial Regional says they too have had an uptick in hospitalizations over the last couple of weeks.

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood is seeing a lot of children in their emergency room.  But chief medical officer Dr. Ronald Ford says fewer are being admitted.

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“A lot more kids are being infected but overall they aren’t as sick as what we saw over the summer” he says. “It’s affecting children two and under more than at any other time.  They aren’t sicker they just have a higher propensity to catch this.”

the common symptoms of the omicron variant are chills, fever, and a lot of sore throats, says Baptist Health’s Dr. Jose Llach.

Dr Llach says they have staffing challenges but are meeting those challenges with employees pivoting in their roles.  He says while the situation is stable everyone needs to stay on guard.

“We don’t know what’s coming down the pike.  More elderly could get sick and we could have more pediatric patients,” he said. “We hope it doesn’t go to delta levels so we have to protect ourselves.”

That means following the basics like frequent hand washing and wearing a good protective facial covering.

There may be hope on the horizon says Broward Health’s Dr. Joshua Lenchus.

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“If the numbers are true and we see what happened in Scotland and South Africa, we should get out of this as fast as we got into it.  By the end of this month we should see a dramatic difference,” he said.