While Allegheny County’s numbers still are headed in the wrong direction, covid-19 figures posted throughout Pennsylvania are in line with predictions that the U.S. could be nearing the downward curve of the recent surge brought on by the omicron variant.
In Allegheny, the weeklong average in hospitalizations is up about 6% from a week ago and up 60% over the last month. In Westmoreland, the seven-day average is down 5% from last week and down nearly 20% from a month ago, according to the OpenData PA, which tracks covid-19 information.
In the Excela Health system, roughly one-third of staffed beds are filled with covid patients, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carol Fox.
“We continue to see high numbers of positive test results,” Fox said. “The number of covid-positive patients in the hospital varies from day to day, but we have not yet seen a significant decline.”
Statewide, there were 18,955 new covid cases reported Friday — 15,225 confirmed through PCR testing and 3,730 through rapid tests. That means the weeklong average for Pennsylvania has dropped for five days straight, to an average of 20,123 new cases per day.
Over the past week, the state has reported 140,863 new cases, a steep decline from nine days ago, when Pennsylvania registered more than 200,000 new cases in the same span of time.
And while Allegheny County’s hospitalization average has risen, there have been 16,061 new cases in the past week — down from a seven- day high of 24,735 cases from Jan. 6-12.
Omicron wave cresting?
The local drop in cases generally resembles the covid situation over the past two weeks in countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom, where health officials say they have reason to believe the omicron wave may have crested and is on the decline.
At the same time, experts warn that much is still uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold, according to the Associated Press. The plateauing or ebbing in the U.S. and U.K. is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. And weeks or months of misery lie ahead for patients and overwhelmed hospitals, even if the drop-off comes to pass.
“There are still a lot of people who will get infected as we descend the slope on the backside,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium, told the AP. The consortium predicted that reported cases would peak Thursday.
Throughout the UPMC health system, spokesman Rick Pietzak said they are seeing the second-highest peak of covid inpatients since last winter.
“However, we have fewer inpatients on ventilators than this time last year,” he said. “While all UPMC facilities are operating at or near capacity, we remain open and there for all the communities we serve.”
Across its system in the U.S., UPMC is treating 1,066 inpatients for covid-19, 473 of whom are in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
In the Allegheny Health Network system, there are 301 patients hospitalized with covid, with 38 in intensive care.
“Like all health care providers across the region and most parts of the country, AHN is dealing with staffing shortage,” spokeswoman Stephanie Waite said. “From a staffed bed standpoint, all of our hospitals are at or near capacity.”
Mortality figures down
In the past week, Pennsylvania reported 936 new covid-
related deaths, with nearly 600 coming in the past two days.
But overall, numbers are down compared to last year. As of Friday, 1,757 covid-
related deaths were recorded to this point in January, compared to 2,410 the week of Jan. 21, 2021. There have been 3,335 covid deaths reported for December 2021, nearly half the number of deaths that happened in December 2020.
Allegheny County’s covid website added 74 covid-related deaths in the past week, while the state’s OpenData PA website is reporting only 54. The two sources have never matched consistently during the pandemic. No reason has been given for the discrepancy. The county’s health department reports a total of 2,799 residents have died of covid, as compared to the 2,885 the state is reporting.
Health systems remain frustrated with the number of unvaccinated covid cases they are seeing.
“Across UPMC, 75% of those in the hospital for covid-19 have not been vaccinated,” Pietzak said. “Most of the rest are over age 65 or have other severe conditions that limit their immunity.”
UPMC officials said unvaccinated people infected with covid-19 are seven to 10 times more likely to require intensive care than those who are vaccinated.
“People with full vaccination — including a booster — and communities with high vaccination rates simply are safer from covid-19 death or serious illness,” Pietzak said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .