COVID: There are signs omicron is about to crest in Bay Area. One is in our wastewater

Wastewater was a canary in the COVID-19 coal mine for Bay Area health officials. Over a month ago they pointed to sharply rising virus levels detected in the sewer system as a harbinger of the omicron-fueled case surge. Wastewater tests now show virus levels starting to subside.

Along with modeling at the University of Washington that has proven to be spot-on about the pandemic’s trajectory, and experiences in other states and countries, it suggests the omicron wave is cresting and about to come down in Northern California and across the country. It’s a hopeful sign for a public quite weary of the virus and all the restrictions it brings to their daily lives.

“We are seeing some trends currently that suggest there may be a leveling off or even a downward trend,” said Santa Clara County Deputy Public Health Department Director Michael Balliet, who is overseeing the wastewater monitoring in partnership with Stanford University.

Wastewater monitoring systems in other parts of the country are showing similarly hopeful signs. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority reported Tuesday that virus levels in Boston area sewers had fallen to levels recorded on Dec. 30 — still higher than those seen before this winter, but nearly half peak levels found the first week of January.

Alexandria Boehm, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University, which is also monitoring wastewater virus levels for several other counties, including San Mateo, Modesto, San Francisco, and Merced, said she’s seeing similar peaking trends in Sacramento.

Health experts have been expecting, based on last winter’s experience and the trajectory of omicron outbreaks overseas, that this winter’s surge would peak and subside quickly. In the United Kingdom, government data show new COVID-19 daily cases dropped to about 140,000 in the last week, after soaring to more than 200,000 earlier this month. Hospital admissions also have begun to fall.

South Africa, where the omicron variant first emerged in November, already has seen cases peak and fall.

The University of Washington’s influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model as of Jan. 8 predicts the present wave of daily U.S. cases will crest at around 1.2 million by Jan. 19 and begin to fall about as fast as it rose — which was meteoric.

By another IHME measure of estimated infections which includes those not confirmed and reported through testing, the latest U.S. surge already peaked Jan. 6 at 6.2 million. Daily U.S. hospital counts are projected to peak Jan. 25 at 273,000 and daily COVID-19 deaths Jan. 24 at 1,930.

For California, the IHME model predicts daily cases will peak at 135,750 by Jan. 24, with daily hospital counts cresting at 31,510 by Jan. 30 and daily COVID-19 deaths topping out at 150 by Feb. 1. It says estimated daily infections already peaked Jan. 11 at 758,500.

The model will be updated again Friday, but Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said he doesn’t expect projections to change much.

California is seeing a later peak than …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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