People hospitalized with the omicron variant of COVID-19 spend three days less in the hospital than the average delta variant patient, with lower rates of mechanical ventilation and death, a new study has found.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or accepted for publication, tracks with prior research out of South Africa that suggested omicron hospitalizations were not as lengthy or severe as past variants.
The study comprised nearly 70,000 patients in the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system in southern California from Nov. 30 to Jan. 1. Omicron cases outnumbered delta cases more than 3-1, but total omicron hospitalizations were only about a dozen higher.
Among those hospitalized with omicron, the median stay was 3.4 days shorter than for delta patients, reflecting about a 70% reduction in overall hospitalized time.
The authors found much lower rates of ICU admission and death for those who started with an outpatient positive test for omicron, as opposed to delta. They also noted that none of the omicron patients in the study period needed a ventilator, but 11 of the delta patients did.
"During a period with mixed Delta and Omicron variant circulation, SARS-CoV-2 infections with presumed Omicron variant infection were associated with substantially reduced risk of severe clinical endpoints and shorter durations of hospital stay," the authors concluded.
Omicron peaking: Early signs
The study comes amid early signs that in the Northeast, the crushing omicron wave that started in early December may be peaking.
Net hospitalizations are down in both New York and New Jersey, and new cases -- while still historically high -- are well off the levels of two weeks ago.
For the vaccinated, the risk of breakthrough infections is dropping as well, as the virus runs out of people to infect in the region.