Omicron may soon cross delta as dominant strain, bringing ‘fifth wave,’ says top Utah doctor


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The Utah Department of Health on Friday announced seven more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s death toll since the pandemic broke out to 3,702.

The state surpassed 3,000 deaths on October 9, when 3,002 people died. There have been 700 deaths reported since then – an average of about 10 a day.

The Ministry of Health on Friday also reported 1,017 new cases of coronavirus in the past day. The seven-day rolling average for new cases is 1,006 cases per day.

But that could soon change. A top Utah doctor warned Friday that the omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to cause a “fifth wave” of new coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.

Brandon Webb, infectious disease physician at Intermountain Healthcare, said during a COVID-19 community meeting on Facebook Live, “In some ways, it is piggybacking on a fourth wave that never retreats. completely.

‘Houdini’ of variations

The omicron variant is more contagious, Webb said, calling it the “Houdini of COVID variants” because it can escape the body’s immune responses — achieved through previous infection or doses of vaccine first — and create more “breakthrough” cases.

Even so, he says, omicron is like delta in that it causes more severe disease in unvaccinated people. And in the coming weeks, it could soon surpass delta as the dominant variant of COVID-19.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, with omicrons on our doorstep, I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated,” Webb said Friday. “If you’ve had an infection before and relied on that to protect you against other strains, that no longer applies to the omicron variant.”

He also strongly encourages those already vaccinated to get a booster dose.

With just over a week until Christmas, Webb advised those with symptoms of a respiratory illness to stay home and avoid gatherings with loved ones. He also recommends getting tested for the coronavirus early, because cold and flu symptoms overlap with symptoms of COVID-19.

Healthy holidaymakers should still avoid large groups of people indoors, maintain social distancing and wear masks in crowded places indoors, Webb said. “The tools in the toolbox worked well [before] still effective against omicrons,” he said.

ICU is still near capacity

The number of children vaccinated continues to grow – 85,916 children aged 5-11 have received at least one dose since becoming eligible. According to the Department of Health, that’s 23.6 percent of kids that age in Utah. And 50,190 of those children are fully vaccinated – 13.8% of that age group.

Intensive care units in the state remain near full capacity. UDOH reported Friday that 93.5% of all ICU beds in Utah and 97.1% of ICU beds in larger medical centers in the state are occupied. (Hospitals consider any number above 85% to be functionally adequate.) Of all ICU patients, 37.6% are being treated for COVID-19.

The dose of vaccine administered in the last day / total doses administered • 13,240 / 4,403,822.

Number of fully immunized Utahns • 1,875,418 – 57.3% of Utah’s total population. That is an increase of 2,140 in the past day.

Cases reported in the past day • 1,017.

Cases in school-age children • Children in grades K-12 accounted for 157 of the new cases announced Wednesday – 15.4% of the total. There were 89 cases reported in children aged 5-10 years; 26 cases in children 11-13; and 42 cases in children 14-18.

Tests reported yesterday • 9,301 people were tested for the first time. A total of 17,871 people have been tested.

Deaths reported in the past day • Seven.

There have been three deaths in Salt Lake County – a woman between the ages of 45-64, and two men aged 85 or older.

Davis County reported two deaths – a man and a woman 65-84. There were also two deaths in Utah County – a man and a woman 45-64.

Number of hospital admissions reported in the past day • 511. Four more than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 196 are in intensive care, three more than reported Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • According to the original state method, the rate was 10.9% in the past day. This is 13.2% below the seven-day average.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Friday’s rate was 5.7%, well below the seven-day average of 9.1%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Risk ratio • Over the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 15.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who were vaccinated, according to an analysis by the Utah Department of Health. Unvaccinated people were also 9.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3.7 times more likely to test positive for coronavirus.

Total so far • 617,697 cases; 3,704 people died; 26,941 cases of hospitalization; 4,121,577 people tested. Omicron may soon cross delta as dominant strain, bringing ‘fifth wave,’ says top Utah doctor

Yasmin Harisha

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