Positive COVID-19 tests are peaking this week and hospitalizations in California are expected to hit their highest levels sometime next week, according to models.
Here's what experts are saying about where California and the Sacramento region are in the current omicron wave, and what that means for the state over the coming weeks
Models suggest cases in California are passing their peak
According to researchers at Washington State University, their models expect cases in California to drop.
“We are seeing that in every other country where Omicron hit, so we have no warning sign that this will not happen here in the U.S.,” Dr. Ali Mokdad with the Institute for Health Metrics said.
The models look at indicators like how mobile people are, how many have been vaccinated and recent testing data, and compare it to how omicron has played out in other countries. Based on that, they're confident we'll see a continued decline in cases.
“Omicron spreads much faster and the incubation period is much shorter than what we have seen before, and also we are realizing that the stay in the hospital is shorter, especially for people who are vaccinated and boosted,” Mokdad says.
Wastewater data shows cases may also be peaking in Sacramento
Positive tests aren't the only way health officials track the spread of COVID-19. Another is through studying wastewater.
Regional San, Sacramento's regional wastewater system, volunteered to join a COVID-19 wastewater study from Stanford University, and that was how the first signs of the omicron variant were detected in Sacramento County in December.
“It's a very powerful tool because you can sample an entire population with a single sample as opposed to, you know, everyone getting tested individually," Regional San General Manager Christoph Dobson said. "So it gives you a different set of data. It certainly is not as granular as testing an individual person. You get this overall sense of how the community is being affected, in this case by this virus.”
The data can also help predict changes in cases, as signals in the sewage symptoms can be detected faster than a person can develop symptoms and then get tested.
“We will see the concentrations change at the treatment plant generally a little ways around a week or so before the clinical cases will hit,” Dobson said.
The most recent data from the sewage sampling shows omicron levels peaked in Sacramento wastewater earlier this month
“That peak probably hit at least in our wastewater around the 8th or so of January, and it's been coming down since then,” Dobson said.
Even though cases are dropping, California hospitals are still overwhelmed
Dr. Erica Pan, California State Epidemiologist, says hospitals in the state "are certainly at maximum capacity now."
Pan points out examples where they’re seeing hospitals at 20 to 25 percent above what’s considered a baseline for total patients during the lowest points of COVID-19.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind though that while thankfully we think the peak may have happened, we are still at higher levels of transmission than we have ever seen,” pan says.
Staffing shortages are also a concern as the hospitals prepare for even more COVID-19 patients in the coming days. Pan says the state has been providing staffing support and hopes that we’ll soon see manageable levels as the omicron surge subsides.
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