With new illnesses continuing to drop and masking requirements at schools set to end after Friday, the two year COVID nightmare is over, or perhaps not.
Although national political figures have been signaling the epidemic is all but over, another variant, BA.2, sometimes called omicron II, is rising fast. Media reports suggest the volume of cases in Hong Kong is close to overwhelming hospitals there. Just a blip in Britain two weeks ago, BA.2 is responsible for a quarter of UK cases. It's also causing more than a tenth of new cases in Alberta, Canada.
The wait for it's arrival locally is over. "We've already genotyped five cases and some of the other Bay Area counties have actually genotyped even more," said Sundari Mase, Sonoma County's Health Officer.
She said that's likely a significant undercount as sequencing is only possible with PCR tests, not with antigen tests or any at home results---which typically aren't shared with authorities anyway.
Mase said she's cautiously optimistic that widespread vaccinations will blunt any new wave's impact locally. "It's hard to predict exactly what will happen in the coming month or two and we know that detection of these outbreaks sometimes lag. So far, we aren't seeing what other countries are seeing. It doesn't mean in another month we may not have another surge."
Although the mandates have lapsed, Mase said vigilance should continue. "The public health message is still, absolutely wear a mask, surgical grade or higher, especially in indoor settings if you feel at all vulnerable." That's doubly true if you live with or come in contact with anyone elderly, under age five or immunocompromised.
A recent revision in CDC Covid data---essentially basing regional risk on hospitalizations rather than new cases or infection rates moved Sonoma County from one of the riskiest to least risky ratings. Mase said the change was warranted. "The change in the metric for CDC was to really focus on what the most important adverse outcomes were--hospitalizations and deaths, rather than infections amongst relatively well people in the community that actually led to nothing."