Transmission of COVID-19 in Lewis County erupted last week, according to numbers published Wednesday from county Public Health & Social Services, as an unprecedented 751 new cases and 27 hospitalizations were reported.
No new deaths were reported last week, according to Public Health, and confirmed COVID-caused deaths have been few and far between in recent weeks.
This drastic, upward trend in COVID-19 activity mirrors similar trends seen at the state and national level, as almost every corner of the U.S. reports record-breaking numbers of the highly-infectious, likely less-lethal omicron variant.
“We’re seeing what the rest of the state and country are seeing right now, which is just a really dramatic increase in the number of cases,” Public Health Deputy Director John Abplanalp told The Chronicle.
COVID-19 cases nearly tripled the week of Jan. 2-8, compared with previous week’s numbers.
Still, Lewis County is reporting among the highest hospitalization rates in the state, with 33.6 hospitalizations reported per 100,000 population over the past seven days, spurring renewed worry increased COVID-related admission rates could have a dire effect on local health care systems and bed availability.
Since July, Lewis County has been above the state’s average hospitalization rate for COVID-19, Abplanalp told Lewis County commissioners this week.
“In context, even with our dramatic increase in cases, Lewis County’s rate is still below the state average for cases. That may change, but for right now we’ll take it. The bad news is that, for hospitalizations, we’ve been higher than the state’s rate pretty much consistently since delta started back in July, and that remains the case,” he said.
Local hospital administrators have said the duration of stay for COVID-related check-ins have decreased and fewer people are needing intensive care treatment, Abplanalp said.
“Not a lot fewer. They said with delta, it was about one-in-four were requiring ICU, and with omicron it may be one-in-five, or one-in-six. So, a marginal decrease, but a decrease nonetheless,” Abplanalp.
About 759 individuals were tested at the Lewis County Mall COVID-19 testing site last week, according to Public Health data, and roughly 2,746 tests have been administered there since the site was opened by Discovery Health back in late November.
Abplanalp said as home COVID-19 testing kits become more readily available to the public, he expects the county data will become less and less accurate in showing the current status of COVID-19 activity in the community with people not reporting cases to public health officials. It’s also possible, he said, there could be a growing number of people who aren’t testing at all.
The county’s transmission data is almost certainly an undercount currently.
Lewis County residents who test positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test may report their data to the state Department of Health, Abplanalp said, by calling 1-800-525-0127.
Abplanalp said it’s expected the county may continue to see increasing weekly COVID-19 caseloads due to spread of the omicron variant, and that it may sustain over many weeks. Even with omicron, the virus remains a concern for Public Health and the greater community.
Public Health reports there are still about 13 active outbreaks in Lewis County congregate care facilities, which was an increase from last week.