AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As COVID-19 cases increase, Amarillo hospitals said this week they are seeing a slight increase in the number of patients with covid admitted.

However, both Northwest Texas Healthcare System and BSA Health System said they still have far fewer patients than in previous covid surges.

“We were up to 11 inpatients today. So we’re typically gaining about one to two inpatients per day,” said Dr. Brian Weis, the chief medical officer at Northwest, on Thursday. “Only one is in the ICU and that patient is not requiring mechanical ventilation. So again, we’re seeing people positive, but not getting extremely sick from this variant.”

At BSA, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Lamanteer said on Wednesday they were also seeing an increase in patients.

“We had been running previously for several months with numbers less than 10 hospitalized per day, even less than five per day in the hospital and now we’re up into the high teens,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “Today, we have 19 patients hospitalized with acute COVID-19. That’s out of our 295 total.”

According to Lamanteer, only one of the 19 patients was in the intensive care unit and the rest were on the general medical surgical ward.

Neither hospital had patients on ventilators.

Dr. Weis attributed this surge in new cases to one Omicron subvariant called BA.5.

“Right now, they’re estimating that over 50% of cases in the United States are BA.5,” said Dr. Weis. “I think the concern is, is what it’s showing is that it has the ability to infect people, despite them having vaccines or prior exposure to COVID-19. In fact, it’s been said that this variant, basically, the immune system is three times less likely to be able to protect us from this variant than some of the previous Omicron variants.”

Weis said more than half of the covid patients at Northwest are fully vaccinated and have gotten covid despite that.

“The good news is, just like we’ve always said, these vaccines do appear to protect people from getting very sick,” Weis added.

At BSA, Lamanteer said 60-70% of new patients admitted for covid are not vaccinated. He said the other 30-40% who are vaccinated need to be broken down into further categories, including some who had an initial series of vaccines, but no booster shots, while some are fully boosted.

“It’s pretty clear that the greater numbers are coming from those that have had no vaccination status and tend to be folks that are more elderly or have other medical conditions as well, but not all,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “I mean, we’re seeing still folks in their 30s, 40s, and 50s getting admitted without a lot of medical history that are unvaccinated.”

When it comes to a second booster shot, Dr. Weis said even though our current vaccines are not as effective against BA.5, they are still worth getting.

“I think the consensus of the experts is, go ahead and get that booster now. If you’re more than six months out from your first booster, get a second one. And then we can anticipate possibly yet another booster in the fall that will have now the addition of these two new variants,” Dr. Weis said, noting the vaccines would likely be effective against BA.4 and BA.5.

Click here to read COVID-19 booster shot recommendations.

In previous surges, staffing became an issue. On Wednesday, Dr. Lamanteer said at BSA, they have 16 staff members in quarantine.

“Right now, we’re seeing a slight uptick in the hospitals, nothing dramatic. We are seeing a slight uptick in quarantining of our employees, nothing dramatic,” said Lamanteer. “But we have a little bit of trepidation about whether things are going to get worse and we’re hoping that that’s not the case.”

When asked how people can continue to protect themselves, Dr. Weis said, “Good hand hygiene, maybe try to stay out of crowded areas. If you are in a crowded area, consider wearing a mask to protect yourself and others. And then particularly if you are having symptoms, please consider getting yourself tested. But in particular, please stay away from work or from places where you’re with other people until you’re symptom free.”