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Omicron may have peaked as COVID-19 cases are dropping in Cuyahoga County

Although the omicron peak appears to be behind us, Cuyahoga County officials are still warning of a high level of COVID-19 transmission.  [Shutterstock / Damir Sencar]
A gloved hand holds a nasal swab near a patient's face during a COVID-19 test.

As the omicrons surge appears to be waning, Cuyahoga County officials again urged the public to get vaccinated and continue taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus during a press conference Wednesday.

County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan said that the wave of infections fueled by the omicron variant appears to have peaked in Northeast Ohio.

“Our positivity rate over the last seven days is at 17% and this is about half of where it was at the peak of the omicron surge at about 36% or so,” Allan said during the press conference. “Now, the hospitals saw even higher rates of positivity, around 50%.”

About 10,000 cases were reported in the county over the last seven days, but that includes backlogged cases, he said.

Although the number of cases is dropping, Allan said, Northeast Ohioans should continue to wear masks and social distance. Cuyahoga County’s case rate remains eight times greater than the CDC threshold for high transmission. That means, the virus is still circulating in the community, he said.

“If you’re unmasked in group settings, you’re asking to be infected with omicron,” said Allan.

He also urged people to get vaccinated. While the vaccines may not prevent infection, Allan said they do lessen the chances that a person will be hospitalized or die of the virus.

About 61% of Cuyahoga County residents are fully vaccinated, but there are significant racial disparities, according to Allan. Only 40% of African Americans and 55% of Hispanic residents are fully vaccinated. And only a minority of the county’s children have been vaccinated, he said.

The vaccination rate among children ages 5 to 11 is 21%. Slightly more than half of those ages 12 to 17 have gotten their shot.

Those low rates of vaccination continue to cause problems for hospital systems and health care workers who are exhausted after battling the virus for the past two years, said Cuyahoga County Board of Health Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett.

“We’ve been working with very limited staff. We’re working with sometimes a small sliver of the people we need to conduct our regular office hours,” she said. 

Gullet begged the public to stay home if they’re sick, wear a mask, social distance, and get a vaccination or a booster shot.

“Vaccination is our way out of this,” she said. “It is critical and strongly recommended for everyone 5 and older.”

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.