PEAK NEXT WEEK? COVID wave could hit a high soon, say experts

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 7:03 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN -- Last week St. Louis County saw one of its highest weekly COVID case totals of the entire pandemic.

The county recorded 2,201 cases, up more than 20% from the previous week’s 1,828.

Amy Westbrook with St. Louis County Public Health said the region’s current wave is the worst it’s seen.

“When we were seeing those high case numbers around November-December of 2020, we’re higher than that now,” she said.

Westbrook says the county has roughly a 20% testing positivity rate.

Even though many experts believe the Omicron variant’s symptoms are more mild, the high volume of cases has contributed to increased hospitalizations.

“This week alone we saw 50 people being admitted to the hospital and we’ve also seen the highest number of pediatric admissions,” said Westbrook.

So far, the county has had nine pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID in the month of January.

Westbrook believes at-home testing and backed up lab reporting are throwing off case totals.

“In reality we’re likely seeing a much higher community transmission rate than what we can validate,” she said.

Some experts believe this peak could be the beginning of the end for the pandemic.

Mayo Clinic Data Scientist Dr. Curtis Storlie believes after the peak, the state could see numbers drop back down to summer 2021 levels.

“I think we’re going to have this honeymoon period after the peak,” he said, “The good news is we are getting pretty close.”

Westbrook believes the peak could arrive soon, but there’s no surefire way of telling when.

“It’s hard to say whether we’re currently peaking or we may peak in a couple weeks,” she said.

A peak will still have a come-down period.

It could take weeks or even months before case rates return to a manageable level for hospitals.

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