Allegheny County bracing for omicron variant as holidays approach

County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

by PublicSource

COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County remain high but stable, with the county averaging about 600 new cases per day over the past two weeks, County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said at a Wednesday press briefing. 

COVID-related hospitalizations remain high, even though they have slightly decreased since their peak in late November and early December, Bogen said. The county has reported 97 COVID-related deaths since the beginning of the month. 

A majority of hospitalizations and deaths are among individuals not vaccinated against the virus, particularly among those ages 30 to 59. 

“These deaths are as tragic as they are unnecessary and premature, and it breaks my heart to see people die because of misinformation, to see them refuse life-saving therapy. The vaccines work and are doing their jobs,” Bogen added.

Bogen expects cases to remain high as the omicron variant – the most common strain of the virus nationwide – reaches western Pennsylvania. The county has not yet officially reported a case of the omicron variant but has identified evidence of the variant in wastewater samples. 

As the omicron variant spreads, Bogen said the best way to protect against the virus is to get vaccinated, including booster doses for those who are eligible. As of Dec. 22, nearly 783,000 Allegheny County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 288,000 residents have received vaccine booster doses, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Bogen also encouraged Allegheny County residents to wear masks, especially when attending indoor gatherings throughout the holiday season. 

“This is about individual and collective responsibility,” Bogen said. “The simple fact is that masks reduce transmission of the virus, and you don’t need a mask mandate to do the right thing.”


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