Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail addressed the Omicron variant of COVID-19, booster shots and updated isolation guidelines in the county earlier this week.
In January, Ingham County has reported 13,895 cases of COVID-19. This past week, Ingham County reported 4,406 cases, which is roughly 1,000 less cases than the prior week.
“This is more indication that we are looking like plateauing,” Vail said.
Vail illustrated Ingham County’s Omicron peak with the statistic that 219 COVID-19 cases had reached the Sparrow or McLaren hospitals. Vail said this is a lot in terms of hospital capacity.
“When we look at our overall case trends, we can see that these are the highest numbers we’ve seen since the pandemic,” Vail said. “That is true nationally, that is true almost everywhere.”
While this may sound alarming, Vail points to plateauing case numbers in Detroit and the East coast, who have experienced their Omicron peak and are now reporting lower numbers.
Children in Ingham County from ages 5-11 have been vaccinated at a rate of 34.6%. While the number may seem low, it is higher than the statewide average. 76.6% of people 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We are seeing the impact of the vaccination on … deaths,” Vail said, comparing the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants. “Hospitalizations as of right now are higher than they were last year, and deaths are currently similar."
While we have the protection of the vaccine, and less people who contract COVID-19 are dying of the virus, the number of deaths due to the virus is still slightly higher than last year.
“Why are we seeing deaths and hospitalizations higher than last year or similar to last year? Because of ... 15,000 cases in 25 days. It’s out of those sheer numbers,” Vail said.
Vail maintains the importance of getting the booster shot once eligible. Case rates for those who are fully vaccinated are still higher than case rates for those who are fully vaccinated with a booster.
Unvaccinated residents of Ingham County are in dire need of the vaccine, Vail said.
“We’re at a 20 times greater risk of dying for somebody who is unvaccinated compared to somebody who is fully vaccinated with a booster dose," she said.
Availability of at-home COVID-19 tests has slightly dropped recorded testing rates, as those who may have been exposed to the virus reach for the over-the-counter tests rather than heading to a testing facility. Vail said she considers this a perfectly appropriate thing to do.
In terms of the CDC’s updated isolation guidelines, Vail reminded Ingham County residents that the five-day isolation period is only for those who aren’t experiencing symptoms, or those whose symptoms have drastically decreased.
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