Erie County's number of COVID-19 hospitalizations declined last week for the first time in 2022, as the omicron variant-fueled surge appears to be ending.
The weekly COVID-19 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health was not available Friday afternoon, but Erie County saw its daily number of COVID-19 hospitalizations drop from the mid-140s last week to 89 on Friday.
"We admitted 70 COVID-19 patients last week, compared to a record-high 109 the previous week," Christopher Clark, D.O., Saint Vincent Hospital president, said Tuesday. "The early indications are that we have reached our peak."
Clark and other health officials cautioned that COVID-19 remains prevalent in the community, even if cases and hospitalizations are declining.
The county's weekly number of newly confirmed cases dropped for the second straight week, from 3,089 cases reported Jan. 13-19 to 2,099 from Jan. 20-26. However, the county continues to report more than 200 new COVID-19 cases a day, including 431 new cases reported Thursday.
"Do we expect to see 800 cases again in a single day? We don't expect that," said Charlotte Berringer, R.N., director of community health services for the Erie County Department of Healthd. "But even though we aren't at 800 cases a day, we still have a very high transmission rate."
The county also reported 16 deaths last week due to COVID-19 complications, with 14 of them having occurred in January.
Local vaccine totals decline in county
Erie County has seen its number of COVID-19 vaccinations decline in January compared to previous months.
A total of 6,006 primary doses of vaccine and 7,416 doses additional doses had been given in the county through Jan. 23. At that rate, January's overall number of vaccinations would be its lowest since September.
"People should really consider getting their booster," Berringer said. "With the omicron variant, the primary series of vaccinations only provides 15% protection. Boosted, you are 75% to 80% protected."
A majority of county children ages 5 to 19 are not fully vaccinated, the county Health Department reported. Here is the breakdown:
Ages 5 to 9 — 18.5%
Ages 10 to 14 — 36.5%
Ages 15 to 19 — 44.9%
Overall, 56.3% of all county residents are fully vaccinated.
Flu season finished in Erie County?
Not only are Erie County's numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations finally declining, the 2021-22 flu season appears to be near its end.
Only six flu cases were reported in the county last week and nine were reported the previous week, according to the Erie County Department of Health. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths in the county due to flu this season.
"With the spread of omicron, people improved their mask wearing and where just more careful," said Howard Nadworny, M.D., a Saint Vincent Hospital infectious diseases specialist and county Health Department adviser. "Also, people had all sorts of gatherings over Christmas and New Year's, and now more of them are staying home. That helps, too."
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie County's COVID-19 hospitalizations decline