County health director expresses optimism as recent COVID cases appear to stabilize

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen (courtesy of Allegheny County)

by PublicSource intern Katelyn Vue

Allegheny County reported 22,326 infections for the week of Jan. 9-15, a figure that officials characterized as a plateau in cases. However, hospitalizations have notably risen during the omicron surge for young children not eligible for vaccination.

“In a cup-half-full analysis, our daily case counts have stabilized,” County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said in a Wednesday press conference. Bogen said she hopes the trend will lead to a decline in cases seen recently in other cities.

Approximately 48% of new cases were unvaccinated individuals, and around 8% were reinfections. The county reported 38 deaths in the same time frame.

Since mid-December, Bogen said “the rate of hospitalizations increased significantly for children ages 0-4 years. The group whom vaccinations are not yet available.” 

Bogen noted that while hospitalizations are high overall, they are still below pandemic highs from December 2020, when overall cases were at lower levels. Bogen credited this to the effectiveness of vaccines and an overall lower hospitalization rate for the omicron variant.

Bogen said results of municipal wastewater monitoring from the first week of January indicated more than 90% of the virus detected was the omicron variant. She added that now, nearly two weeks later, the percentage is most likely higher. 

The wastewater monitoring program is in the developing stages of tracking emerging variants and will be used to predict future surges, Bogen said. 

Due to the increase of home testing, new cases of COVID-19 in state data are undercounted, because home test results are not added to the state reporting system. However, to improve the local data of new cases, last week the county launched a new voluntary online self-test reporting form

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