Has omicron peaked in Washington? Possibly. The view from the Covid tunnel
Washington state has seen some of its highest rates of coronavirus recently, but the picture is starting to change. KUOW’s Paige Browning brought Kim Malcolm this update.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Kim Malcolm: Let's start with where the numbers stand right now. How many people have the virus?
Paige Browning: The most recent estimate statewide is that 88,000 people are currently positive statewide. That’s one of the highest rates of the pandemic, but the surge may have slowed down since then. Cases were down 20% in King County in the last week. Rates are still staggeringly high, but we may be on our way out of omicron’s worst grip.
We know that hospitalizations and deaths lag behind spikes in cases in the data. What are you seeing there?
It appears the rolling seven-day average of hospitalizations is also starting to come down in the last week, but it's still higher than it was in the previous peak in the fall statewide. It is going to be tough for hospitals for a few more weeks. There's just no other way to say it.
This has been a hard month for people losing loved ones to Covid. The rate of deaths has increased in the last week by 126% in King County. That means four people are dying each day from the disease.
Is there a light at the end of this tunnel yet?
If we're not tapering off yet, we could be very soon. We're getting that prediction from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, based at the University of Washington.
Epidemiologist Ali H. Mokdad says the peak of omicron transmission will occur in nearly every country within the next two to three weeks. South Africa, the UK, even New York City have already tapered off in omicron cases. Our stats are starting to look like we may have passed our peak of omicron in King County.
We have been hearing a lot about schools being sidelined by Covid. Why are there so many cases in schools right now in Seattle and around Washington?
Case rates went up everywhere after the holidays in Washington. Schools were not immune to that. We’re dealing with a very transmissible virus in the community. In Seattle Public Schools, 2,600 people have Covid this month already. That's almost double the number for all of fall semester. There was also a bigger effort on testing this month than in the fall, so some people think that could have turned up more cases than we would have known about otherwise.
And speaking of testing, exciting news today, people can order free test kits in the mail. How do we do it?
Every household in the U.S. can order up to four tests, the rapid kind. They'll be sent through the U.S. Postal Service starting in late January. People will hopefully get their tests within seven to 12 days of submitting an order. We'll see if that timeline stays on track.
You order the free Covid tests at www.covidtests.gov.
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