SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are trending upwards again in the Ozarks.

It’s prompted CoxHealth to reopen its dedicated COVID-19 unit in late November in order to manage capacity.

As of Monday, November 29th, COVID-19 patients in Springfield hospitals have doubled, from 40 to 80, in the last two weeks.

Greene County is now averaging about 55 new COVID-19 cases a day.

While both Cox and Mercy say it will take some time to know the impact Thanksgiving Day gatherings will have on our numbers, hospital leaders say the recent increase comes at no surprise.

“It’s largely unvaccinated people,” says Steve Edwards, President, and CEO of CoxHealth. “It’s colder and more people are doing things inside. I think most of us have dropped a lot of our caution. So, that gives it a cycle to spread.”

“So this could be a little bit of a push at the beginning of winter which we knew was possible…we’ll just have to wait and see,” adds Erik Frederick, Chief Administrative Officer for Mercy Springfield.

The hospitals are also in early discussions about the possible arrival and impact of the new Omicron variant.

Omicron was first discovered in South Africa last week. That Friday, The World Health Organization classified Omicron as a “variant of concern.”

Mercy Hospital says it’s administration met today to discuss future strategies, “And really looking at how transmissible is it What people are getting,” says Frederick. “What’s the level of severity of illness that they’re getting. Really gathering all that information and we’ll get back together as a team within the next two weeks.”

At CoxHealth, CEO Steve Edwards says he hasn’t seen any data on Omicron that would cause him to panic.

“As always, we need to be cautious, we need to plan for the worst and prepare for that, but also be mindful that this went from a variant being identified Wednesday to panic by Friday, and the stock market crashes,” Edwards says. “I think there’s an overreaction at this point There’s not enough data out there that gives me any reason to think we should be panicking.”

Edwards says scientists have so far found Omicron is more transmissible, but early data shows it’s only causing mild symptoms among South African patients.

Both hospitals say whether or not the new variant reaches the Ozarks, we will still likely see new COVID-19 cases for months, or years, to come.

“This isn’t going away, you’re hearing the talk now that this is going to, if not already, become endemic. COVID, we’re just going to have to live it,” adds Frederick.