Thursday, March 30, 2023

Omicron wave may soon subside in parts of US, but early signs are not a trend yet – ABC17NEWS

By Deidre McPhillips, CNN

The omicron surge has led to record highs of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States. This week, however, officials are beginning to spot very early signs that the wave is peaking – or at least plateauing – in parts of the Northeast.

But the case rate is still higher in the region than any other, and experts say it will take weeks for any change to be declared a trend.

The US overall is reporting an average of more than 786,000 Covid-19 cases every day, more than double what it was two weeks ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Still, seven states have seen case rates change week-to-week by less than 10%: New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Georgia, New York, Kansas and Mississippi. And in Washington, DC, they’re down 19% from last week. But only in DC this has been a pattern for over a week.

On Tuesday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said recent case trends are “a ray of hope”. She specifically noted a clear plateau in the average daily case rates in New York City.

The New York City Department of Health’s data tracker indicates that while test positivity rates are “stagnant”, trends are “increasing” in terms of hospitalizations and deaths. Also, data for the most recent 10 days is considered incomplete.

According to a statement from the city’s Department of Health, “We in New York City live within our omicron wave, whether it sees cases, hospitalizations or deaths due to COVID-19.” “While there are preliminary indications that the level of cases may be plateauing, we will have to continue to follow the data closely to understand the trend in the coming days.”

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettygole said at a briefing on Tuesday that judging by the collection of metrics, the city “might just peak.” Data from the city shows that the test positivity rate fell for the first time in months, from 45% positive in the last week of December to 36% in the first week of January.

But she noted that trends are in flux.

“The thing about looking at things like this is that you’re looking at a graph, you’re doing your best to project, and there’s no certainty to any of it,” she said. “I think we’ll see it falter over the next few days, and then it’s just a question of whether we can hold it together and not expose ourselves.”

no clear trend yet

An epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at the University of Utah, Dr. Andrew Pavia told CNN there are some reasons it’s hard to declare what the rate of cases will be in real time, Dr. Andrew Pavia told CNN.

Lack of testing is a complicating factor.

“Testing resources are challenged in many places and there may be a plateau as there is not much capacity for PCR tests,” he said. Many home tests are not even counted in the officially reported figures.

The most recent days of reporting often have a low count as the data takes hold, but it can be exaggerated especially as the health care system is pushed to the brink.

“Overwhelmed and goofy health departments can lag behind in reporting,” he said.

Pavia also noted that there is fluctuation from day to day because large test events or a few superspreader events can bring about a large cluster of cases at a specific time.

“Consistency is important over a long enough period to determine a true trend,” he said. “The bottom line is that we need many more days of data before we can exhale in those jurisdictions.”

In New Jersey, average daily cases have declined slightly in recent days, but the weekly increase is still about 6% compared to a week ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“We’ve had two days of slight downpours, so we’re seeing a glimmer of hope,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persicilli said Monday. “That’s why I keep telling everyone that it’s a prediction. Omicron is a funny version of something that moves up and then, for example, came down just as fast as in South Africa. We can only hope that So be it.”

New Jersey state epidemiologist Dr Christina Tan said cases in the Northeast region could peak earlier than other parts of the US.

Pavia agrees that patterns will shift from place to place.

“The duration of the spike is likely to vary from place to place, related to speed of spread, superspreader events, vaccination and immunity levels, and apparent rates will be affected by testing capacity,” he said.

And states that lag behind in the timeliness and completeness of their reporting make them challenging to compare.

A quick rise and fall?

Some models predict that the United States may reach a peak of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks. And trends in South Africa will indicate a decline that is almost as fast as it accelerates.

But the situation in South Africa may be different than in the US for a number of reasons, including that a large portion of the South African population has had the infection before and a large portion of the US has been vaccinated and amplified, Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week.

“I think in places where we’re seeing a really steep decline, we may well see a sharp decline as well,” she said. “But we are a much larger country than South Africa, and so it may very well be that we see the size of this ice, but it travels across the country.”

And while there are indications that Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, the sheer number of cases could lead to a wave of hospitalizations and deaths.

The number of hospitalizations has already reached a record high, with more than 151,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and near record numbers in ICUs, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

And after remaining stable for weeks, the deaths have also started increasing rapidly. According to JHU data, around 1,800 people are dying of Covid-19 every day, almost 50% more than a week ago.

“Let’s hope that this is really the summit, and not a false peak, as we say in the mountains,” Pavia said.

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