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Omicron vs. delta: Houston study finds omicron variant causes more breakthrough infections but is less severe

Houston Methodist says 15% of patients infected with the omicron variant were hospitalized compared to 43% with the delta variant.

HOUSTON — COVID-19 is spreading at unprecedented levels in Houston due to the incredibly contagious omicron variant.

Houston Methodist is sharing detailed information about who is getting infected and how sick they’re getting.

“We’re seeing fewer patients needing to be admitted due to omicron. We’re seeing the patients who are admitted having shorter lengths of stay and not requiring the same degree of high-level care or ICU care we saw with delta,” Houston Methodist Dr. Wesley Long said.

Long said their study looked at the first 1,313 patients who tested positive for omicron from the end of November through Dec. 20, 2021.

Among Houston Methodist patients:

  • omicron is impacting more young people. The median age of people infected with omicron is 39. The median age of people infected with delta is 48.
  • 15% of patients infected with omicron were hospitalized compared to 43% with delta.
  • 0.8% of patients have died with omicron versus 5% with delta.

Long said it's good news for the individual, but omicron is still a problem.

“Even though fewer patients are needing to be admitted, there are so many new patients every day. That’s still stressful for the healthcare systems as a whole,” he said.

Houston Methodist is also seeing way more breakthrough infections. About half of the patients in their study tested positive after getting vaccinated, including 10% who received a booster shot. Even though people are still getting sick, Long said the vaccines are still doing a good job of preventing serious illness and death.



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