COVID cases surge in Allegheny County as omicron disrupts schools

by PublicSource

Following national trends, COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County are surging as the omicron variant spreads. County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen does not expect it to slow in the coming weeks. The variant accounts for a majority of the county’s cases.  

Allegheny County reported 13,350 new COVID-19 cases from Dec. 26, 2021 to Jan. 1 – an average of 1,907 new cases per day. Bogen said this is an underestimate of the county’s total cases because the health department does not account for the results of at-home tests. 

About half of Allegheny County’s new cases were reported among unvaccinated individuals, and about 9% were reinfections. 

Allegheny County also reported 41 COVID-related deaths and 199 hospitalizations from Dec. 26, 2021 to Jan. 1. The county is using hospitalization data to track the severity of the virus due to incomplete data on total cases. 

Allegheny County confirmed its first omicron case Dec. 22, from a specimen collected Dec. 7. Bogen said the variant has already strained local businesses and the healthcare system. Several local schools have been closed for in-person learning. 

To protect themselves against the virus, Bogen advised Allegheny County residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine if they are eligible, including booster shots. 

“It may not prevent you from getting COVID, but it will protect you from hospitalization and death, which is what vaccines are designed to do,” Bogen said.

She also recommended residents distance themselves from one another, frequently wash their hands and wear masks indoors and in public spaces. 

As of Jan. 5, nearly 791,000 Allegheny County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 318,000 residents have received vaccine booster doses, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Because of the case surge, the county will only contact people who test positive for COVID-19 if they are older than 65 but is experiencing a “significant backlog.”

— By PublicSource intern Amelia Winger

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PublicSource has been tracking COVID-19’s spread on a daily basis since March 2020. More than a year later, in an effort to direct our resources into enterprise reporting on the pandemic and other important issues, we will cover the Allegheny County Health Department’s weekly briefing on Wednesdays and update the numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We may adjust as the prevalence of the coronavirus ebbs and flows. If you have questions or comments, please email PublicSource’s managing editor halle@publicsource.org.

 

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