Omicron variant decelerating

January 2022

Is Omicron on the way out? It may be too soon to celebrate the end of this latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the rolling seven-day daily average case count in the U.S. peaked within the past week, at just over 810,000 cases as of Thursday. It continues to drop at a nearly unprecedented pace since the virus first appeared nearly two years ago. In a sharp reversal that not appears to be more than a statistical aberration caused by fewer state reports during the Martin Luther King holiday, the figure as of this morning had dropped to just over 725,000, a decline of more than 10 percent in less than a week. The pullback has been especially welcome in eastern states, with declines of 30 percent or more in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut, all of which had been hit hard over the past month.

In the Kansas City area, the single-day count of new cases, which peaked at 5,124 on Jan. 4, stood at 2,106 as of this morning, according to the Mid-America Regional Council data hub.

Health officials temper that hopeful news with reminders that hospitals are still under enormous additional stress from COVIID-19 patient loads. The Kansas City region saw its pandemic-era hospitalizations peak last week, at just below 1,300, a jump of more than 41 percent over the fall 2020 surge that had previously marked peak hospitalizations in the metropolitan area. After a month-long run-up at the University of Kansas Hospital, case numbers for those with the virus stabilized a bit, even falling on Tuesday to 126 active cases from 129 the previous day. By Wednesday, Jan. 19, that number had dipped slightly again to 124.

But, reinforcing the point about the lingering risk, hospital officials said that, when patients past the acute infection phase were counted, 199 beds were still occupied on Wednesday, up significantly from Friday’s count of 179.

Dana Hawkinson, the hospital physician in charge of infection prevention and control, offered a sober assessment when he noted that the region still has “many more weeks of winter ahead and it’s vital to wear masks, keep socially distant, wash your hands, and avoid large crowds.” He also encouraged more vaccinations to help reduce the numbers of serious infections and potential deaths.