Omicron Variant

Models Show COVID Cases Fueled by Omicron May Be Slowing Down in Some Areas

State health models show the Omicron surge may be slowing down, at least in some areas

Mario Tama | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A passenger who arrived from Italy administers a self-collected nasal swab on the first day of a new rapid COVID-19 testing site for arriving international passengers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Dec. 3, 2021, in Los Angeles.

After weeks of skyrocketing COVID cases, driven by the Omicron variant, California may soon see a significant drop. Trends show the surge may be slowing down, at least in some areas.

Epidemiologist Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, PhD., is the director of San Diego State University’s Institute for Public Health. She agrees with the models, but warns to not let your guard down.

“It is promising, especially with this variant,” McDaniels-Davidson said.

That’s because in places like New York --once the nation's COVID epicenter -- the governor is citing a 66% drop in just the last two weeks.

“We can kind of expect similar things to happen here,” McDaniels-Davidson said. “Especially because our demographic profiles are somewhat similar to those of New York.”

Since Dec. 21, San Diego County’s positivity rate has nearly doubled every week, but has stayed the same at 26.4%, the past two weeks.

Models show cases may have peaked, but a hospitalization surge is likely to follow.

“If we take what happened in previous waves as any indication; remember that hospitalizations tend to trail cases and deaths tend to trail hospitalizations,” McDaniels-Davidson said. “So, even though we may have reached the peak in terms of cases, we probably haven't reached the peak in terms of hospitalizations.”

On top of that, several health care workers have also tested positive, leaving hospitals short staffed.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the effective transmission rate (“R-effective” or “R-eff”) – the average number of people each infected person will pass the virus onto -- is less than 1, including within San Diego County, which indicates the virus spread is decreasing.

Hospital leaders in San Diego say that if the last few surges due to the epsilon and delta variants are any indication, the number of hospitalizations due to omicron will likely plateau by mid-next week and then decline shortly after. NBC 7's Priya Sridhar reports.

But McDaniels-Davidson said that may not be the case when you consider at-home COVID tests.

“That number, you want it to be less than one, but the challenge with this wave in particular is that we have a lot of people doing at home Covid test, which is wonderful,” McDaniels-Davidson said. “We want people to be doing that, but those tests don't always get included in the official numbers and so that R-effective could be higher.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is hopeful the rest of the country will soon see a turnaround possibly by mid-February.