Omicron Now 85% of Cases

The new variant accomplished in 4 weeks what 10 months of vaccines could not do: defeat Delta

by Alyssa Erdley

Observer Staff

January 7, 2022 - During her weekly press conference yesterday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health, appeared optimistic about the apparently lower hospitalization and death rate during the latest surge of Covid-19. In just one week, Omicron went from 54% of sequenced samples to 85%. The number of Delta variant cases in the population is lower than at any time since that variant crowded out the previous version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, sometime during last summer.

"Unlike the last winter surge, when the hospital census increased significantly," Ferrer stated, "during the current surge the hospital census has remained much more stable." She noted the percent of people in the ICU is much less than last year. "For the time being, death rates remain low and stable," she said. This form of the coronavirus is exhibiting "a very different trajectory from last winter or last summer."

"It is still early, though," she warned. Hospitalizations can lag a couple weeks behind cases and deaths can lag several weeks beyond that. However, Dr. Ferrer appeared optimistic during the press briefing.

Examination of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Data shows that between Christmas and New Year's the non-age-adjusted rates of hospitalizations went down for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, with a much bigger improvement for the unvaccinated:

Unvaccinated hospitalizations per case: from 7.3% to .54% (a difference of 1.93%)

Vaccinated hospitalizations per case: from 2.44% to 1.68% (a difference of .76%)

The non-age-adjusted rates of death also improved during this week for both groups:

Unvaccinated deaths per case: from 1.83% to 1.75% (while this is only a difference of .08%, it is the first time in a year this case fatality rate has lowered)

Vaccinated deaths per case: from .47% to .31% (a difference of .16%)

The percent of new cases during that week occurring in the vaccinated population was 49%. This is an improvement for the vaccinated from the previous period, during which 66.4% of new cases were among the vaccinated. The percent of vaccinated persons contracting Covid during the holiday week was 1% while the percent of unvaccinated persons contracting Covid was 2.4%. Both groups were less likely to end up in the hospital, possibly because of the milder nature of the Omicron variant or possible because these individuals have not yet become sick enough to need hospitalization.

Dr. Ferrer said she expects the present surge to have abated by February 13, when the Super Bowl will be held in SoFi Stadium.


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