PublicSource has been tracking COVID-19’s spread on a daily basis since March 2020. More than a year later, in an effort to direct our resources into enterprise reporting on the pandemic and other important issues, we will cover the Allegheny County Health Department’s weekly briefing on Wednesdays and update the numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We may adjust as the prevalence of the coronavirus ebbs and flows. If you have questions or comments, please email PublicSource’s managing editor firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allegheny County reported 22,326 infections for the week of Jan. 9-15, a figure that officials characterized as a plateau in cases. However, hospitalizations have notably risen during the omicron surge for young children not eligible for vaccination.
“In a cup-half-full analysis, our daily case counts have stabilized,” County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said in a Wednesday press conference. Bogen said she hopes the trend will lead to a decline in cases seen recently in other cities.
Approximately 48% of new cases were unvaccinated individuals, and around 8% were reinfections. The county reported 38 deaths in the same time frame.
Since mid-December, Bogen said “the rate of hospitalizations increased significantly for children ages 0-4 years. The group whom vaccinations are not yet available.”
Bogen noted that while hospitalizations are high overall, they are still below pandemic highs from December 2020, when overall cases were at lower levels. Bogen credited this to the effectiveness of vaccines and an overall lower hospitalization rate for the omicron variant.
Bogen said results of municipal wastewater monitoring from the first week of January indicated more than 90% of the virus detected was the omicron variant. She added that now, nearly two weeks later, the percentage is most likely higher.
The wastewater monitoring program is in the developing stages of tracking emerging variants and will be used to predict future surges, Bogen said.
Due to the increase of home testing, new cases of COVID-19 in state data are undercounted, because home test results are not added to the state reporting system. However, to improve the local data of new cases, last week the county launched a new voluntary online self-test reporting form.
“This data will not be added to the state data, but we will report them separately,” Bogen said. “When residents self-report positive tests, they receive the latest guidance on isolation and quarantine, and links to more information.”
Over 560 people have self-reported their positive test results using the new online form.
— By PublicSource intern Katelyn Vue
(For more information or help with scheduling an appointment through Allegheny County’s Area Agency on Aging, residents can call 412-350-4234.)
This fact-based local reporting drives impact and creates change. Help power that impact.
James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.
It takes a lot of time, skill and resources to produce journalism like this. Our stories are always made available for free so that they can benefit the most people, regardless of ability to pay. But as an independent, nonprofit newsroom, we count on donations from our readers to support this crucial work. Can you make a contribution of any amount (or better yet, set up a recurring monthly gift) to help ensure we can continue to report on what matters and tell stories for a better Pittsburgh?