California, a state where an omicron-driven spike in COVID-19 cases occurred later than in cities like Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C., may reach peak case numbers and see case rates begin to fall this week, according to a forecast from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The model predicted a peak in cases from the state for Jan. 19, with an estimation of almost 130,000 cases a day.
Los Angeles County has the highest number of confirmed cases by county in the United States at 2.3 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. As of Jan. 18, the state had 15,179 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to state data.
A study, posted online and cited during a recent White House briefing, found patients with omicron had a 53% lower risk of hospitalization with respiratory symptoms, a 74% lower risk of ICU admission, and a 91% lower risk of death. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, comes from researchers at Kaiser Permanente and University of California, Berkeley.
"It's hard for me to say straight out it's good news," said study co-author Sara Y. Tartof, a Kaiser Permanente research scientist. "Maybe there's good news in the sense that if you are infected your chance of becoming severely ill are decreased, but from a societal perspective it's a very heavy burden for us. It remains a serious situation, and we need to maintain practices and behaviors we know protect us."
Earlier this week, USA TODAY talked to Marlene Wolfe, an assistant professor of environmental health at Emory University in Atlanta and part of the Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network, a team of scientists that evaluates sewage treatment plants to gain information about COVID-19 rates in California communities.
Wolfe told USA TODAY at the time that testing in about a dozen California cities, the largest of which are Sacramento and San Jose, shows a few cities with possible downward trends but nothing concrete.
Other cities are on the rise, and it will take more time or data to determine where peaks have occurred.
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