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Allegheny County may be past the peak of the omicron wave as COVID-19 cases continue to decline

Laura Tsutsui
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County may be past the peak of the omicron wave, as COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward. The seven-day average number of cases as of Monday was about 1,509, down from about 2,983 on Jan. 17 and about 3,399 on Jan. 10.

Allegheny County Health Department officials are hopeful the numbers have stabilized “and we will begin to see a sustained downward trend,” according to a department spokesperson.

Dr. Debra Bogen, the department’s director, predicted last week that the county would likely soon experience a decline in cases, similar to drops that have been seen across the country after a mid-December surge.

“In a cup-half-full analysis, our daily case counts have stabilized,” she said. “I hope that this plateauing of cases over the past 10 days portends an impending decline like other regions have experienced.”

But Bogen repeated her recommendations Tuesday for residents to continue to mask, and to get tested when they feel sick.

Those precautions could be key to maintaining the downward trend, according to Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC.

If local residents aren't careful, he said, “We shouldn’t assume that while the shape of the curve elsewhere in the world has been quickly up and then quickly down to low levels, that that will be the same here."

Snyder stressed the importance of testing even when someone isn’t experiencing every symptom of the omicron variant. While scientists believe omicron has been the most transmissible variant yet, Snyder argued the strain was also able to spread as a result of fewer people recognizing mild symptoms as COVID-19.

“I think that made people less likely to be concerned that they had COVID, and then less likely to take precautions like staying home from work or school,” he said.

Cases are trending down statewide, too. The daily average number of cases was 15,294, down from 25,417 last week.

“Although we are seeing a slight decrease in the seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases, it is much too early to let down our guard,” said Keara , Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of Health.

She argued previous surges have shown it takes longer for hospitals to see relief after cases decline in the community. But COVID-19 hospitalizations have also begun to trend downward. According to the Department of Health, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Jan. 24 decreased by 12.8% compared to Jan. 17.

Still, Klinepeter said, "Staffing resources are in high demand from Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems, whose frontline healthcare workers are exhausted and in need of support while they continue to see record numbers."

The Wolf administration hired a team of nurses and respiratory workers to help bolster staffing at three Pennsylvania hospitals in the last week.

According to the state health department, about 30% of adult intensive care unit beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Some regions are still experiencing peaks at different times, said UPMC's Snyder.

“We’re on a steep slope in the decline” of COVID-19 hospitalizations, he said. “But that’s not necessarily true for each hospital in each region.”

But overall, he said, the data suggests the situation is improving.

“All of the numbers that we look at — whether it’s percent positivity, total number of positives [cases], number of hospitalized patients — all of the numbers across the system are trending in the right direction,” he said. “Which is sweet relief for us.”

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.