COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a new record high in the US as the Omicron wave sweeps the nation

COVID hospitalizations
A medical worker in full PPE reads a message on a computer screen while with a patient who has covid-19 in a negative pressure room in the ICU ward at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 4, 2022. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images
  • The United States hit a new record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday. 
  • More than 132,600 people were hospitalized with COVID as of Tuesday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Roughly 30% of ICU beds in the country are filled with COVID-19 patients.

As the Omicron variant surges across the country, COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States has hit a record high, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services

Nearly 146,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, breaking the previous record set in January 2021, according to the data.

While case numbers are continuing to rise across the country due to the highly infectious Omicron variant, hospitals across the country are dealing with staff shortages, forcing some to ask COVID-19 positive staff to return to work, Insider previously reported.

Just over 30% of ICU beds in the country are filled with COVID-19 patients, and a full 80% of ICU beds across the nation are currently in use, the data shows.

US COVID-19 hospitalizations for all age demographics saw a record increase in January, CDC data shows. Hospitalizations for children are also at the highest point since the pandemic began, though the total number of children hospitalized is still lower than other age groups.

However, hospitalization rates may not show Omicron’s actual effects. According to top disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and public health data, many COVID-19 hospitalizations may be “incidental” — meaning the patient came to the hospital for other treatment but tested positive while there during general screening.

New York City health officials have noted a similar trend, saying more than half of COVID-19 patients in the city were admitted to the hospital for a different reason. 

Still, the record hospitalization numbers in the US tell a unique story about the impacts of the Omicron variant in the US versus other countries across the globe. 

South Africa, which was among the first nations to detect the Omicron variant, saw a lower hospitalization rate during the Omicron surge than during the previous wave driven by the Delta variant.

One model from a Columbia University researcher predicted the current Omicron wave will hit its peak in the US in mid-January. 

The US averaged more than 750,000 new cases and more than 1,600 deaths a day in the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.