Erie County continues to see declines in its numbers of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, even the amount of COVID virus in Erie’s wastewater.
Still, Erie County Department of Health officials are watching for a possible surge sparked by the BA.2 omicron subvariant that has increased cases in England and other countries.
“BA.2 is coming, it’s just a matter of time,” said Charlotte Berringer, R.N., director of community health services for the county Health Department. “It spreads more easily than the original version of omicron, and there are still a lot of people who are unvaccinated and others who haven’t received a booster shot.”
Though the county Health Department does not receive data about the variants of its COVID-19 cases, regional data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention indicates the BA.2 subvariant has already arrived. The percentage of BA.2 among cases in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia rose last week from 23% to 30%.
The good news is that BA.2’s apparent arrival has not sparked any surges in the county, at least not yet.
A total of 18 new COVID-19 cases was reported Sunday through Tuesday, the lowest three-day total since July 20-22, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The state Health Department also reported 25 county residents with COVID-19 who were hospitalized Monday evening, the lowest number since Aug. 16.
In addition, the amount of COVID virus found in samples taken last week from the Erie Wastewater Treatment Plant are as low as they were in August.
“All indicators — wastewater, cases and hospitalizations — are consistently low, though not disappearing,” said Howard Nadworny, M.D., a Saint Vincent Hospital infectious diseases specialist and county Health Department adviser. “Not masking could increase cases, but warmer weather (outdoor activities) could decrease cases. We’ll just have to see. I don’t think there’s any sign yet of a BA.2 surge, though there are likely some cases in the county.”
The BA.2 subvariant will likely cause COVID-19 case totals to rise in the United States during the upcoming weeks but another surge is unlikely, said Anthony Fauci, M.D., the Biden administration’s top adviser on the pandemic. Fauci also said that he doesn’t expect hospitalizations and deaths to rise significantly.
To reduce your risk of infection, Berringer recommended that you get a COVID-19 booster dose. Only 28.5% of all county residents are fully vacciated and boosted, and 48.2% of those who are fully vaccinated have received a booster shot.
“We know that people are COVID weary, but the disease is far from gone,” Berringer said. “Getting a booster shot significantly decreases your risk of hospitalization and death from this variant.”
A free COVID-19 vaccination and booster clinic will be held Friday from 3-5 p.m. at the County YMCA, 12285 YMCA Drive, Edinboro. For a list of other county vaccination sites, visit eriecountypa.gov/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine.
Flu cases decline after peaking last week
Flu cases declined in the county last week after peaking the previous week, according to the county Health Department.
A total of 95 new cases were reported the week ending Saturday, compared to an updated total of 130 new cases the previous week. For the season, 846 flu cases have been reported.
One person was hospitalized for flu complications last week, increasing the season’s total to 25. No flu-related deaths have been reported in the county.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Erie County watches for COVID-19 surge as cases, admissions decline