CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The U.S. is setting record numbers of COVID-19 cases as the omicron variant spreads further.

In the Rio Grande Valley, hospitalizations are continuing to climb but health officials are saying this surge is different than previous ones.

During previous peaks in COVID hospitalizations, deaths from COVID increased as well. 

So far, during this wave, “the increase in death percentage does not mirror the increase in hospital admissions,” Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County Health Authority, said.

Melendez said it is still too soon to say omicron is not as dangerous as delta was, but so far the outlook is good.

This surge has “a lot more cases, a lot less acutely ill people, a lot less people dying percentage-wise,” Melendez said.

Rolando Casas, the assistant emergency management coordinator for Cameron County, said hospitals are having to turn some patients away.

“They’re asking the ambulance companies – if it’s not a highly critical patient – to try and divert to another hospital,” Casas said.

There are still plenty of hospital beds available in Cameron County hospitals, the problem is with the number of healthcare workers available.

Patients are being turned away “not due so much to the quantity of cases going in, more because of the staff that are down with COVID,” Casas said.

Texas is sending additional workers to hospitals in Cameron and Hidalgo County to help cover the shortage. It will take time for those workers to arrive and start working. Until then, the public can help the hospitals.

“We just ask everyone to do their part, stay as safe as possible and take precautions,” Casas said. “We let our guard down a little bit but we need everyone to get back on point with that and start putting our guard back up.”