Erie County’s number of recently confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 64% last week, an indication that the more transferable omicron sub-variants have arrived in the area.
The county’s weekly total number increased from 72 cases reported April 8-14 to 118 cases reported April 15-21. The overall figure remains well below the height of the January omicron peak, but spurred local health authorities to remind people that the pandemic is not over.
“You will recall that the delta variant existed for a few months before the number of cases and hospitalizations increased,” said Charlotte Berringer, RN, director of community health services for the Erie County Department of Health. “People are moving around and gathering, and many of them are either unvaccinated or have not received a booster shot.”
Erie County’s rise comes as newer versions of the omicron variant spread across the country, causing the number of cases to rise in upstate New York and a few other counties in the northeastern United States. These newer versions account for 93% of all COVID-19 cases tested in a region of the country that includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
The good news is that while these sub-variants are more transferable than the original omicron, which is more transferable than previous COVID-19 variants, they do not appear to cause significantly more hospitalizations or deaths.
In fact, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, which often lag behind new cases, continue to decline in Erie County.
Only one COVID-19 death has been reported to have occurred in April, and the average daily number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped last week from 20.3 to 19.1, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported.
Many of these patients were admitted for non-COVID reasons and were later tested positive for the virus or developed minor symptoms.
“We still see some patients who are critically ill with COVID, but most of them are asymptomatic or show mild symptoms,” said Nancy Weissbach, MD, a specialist in infectious diseases at Saint Vincent Hospital.
In addition, the amount of COVID-19 virus found in samples taken last week from the Erie wastewater treatment plant dropped slightly, from the equivalent of about 350 cases per week to about 200.
The key to preventing serious illness from these new omicron variants is to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, Weissbach said.
“The Covid vaccine is still considered to be extremely effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths,” Weissbach said. “Getting your first series of two vaccinations plus a third shot four months later is very important.”
Vaccinations have increased slightly in the county over the past few weeks, which has increased the county’s share of fully vaccinated residents to 58.3%. But only 29.1% of all county residents have received a booster dose, the county health ministry reported.
Here is a look at the rest of the county’s COVID-19 measurements between 8.-14. April and 15.-21. April from the State Ministry of Health:
- The proportion of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants increased from 26.7 to 43.7.
- Covid-19 test positivity increased from 4.5% to 6.8%.
- The average daily number of COVID-19 patients in need of ventilators decreased from 0.4 to 0.3.
- The proportion of emergency room visits due to COVID-19 symptoms decreased from 1.9% to 1.7%.