Omicron surge could last until early March, Austin health leaders say

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — How long will we be dealing with this surge of COVID-19, fueled by the omicron variant? Health leaders predict it could be a couple months.

“The case numbers will go up because schools are getting ready to start again,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said. She also reported the impact of holiday gatherings on COVID-19 spread is still playing out.

“What we know now is that we’re looking at least until the end of February, early March where we see a resolution of this,” Walkes said before local leaders in a joint city council and county commissioners meeting Tuesday.

In South Africa, there has been a dramatic drop in new COVID-19 cases, perhaps signaling the end of the surge where the variant was first found. The dip in cases is offering hope — though health leaders note its not yet conclusive — that omicron infections may recede as quickly as they spike.

Last month, the University of Texas COVID-19 modeling consortium put out 16 projections showing how the omicron variant might impact case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU capacity depending on how severe the variant turned out to be. They predicted in the most severe scenario that omicron could lead to the “largest health care surge to date.” It’s still too early to tell which of those models will prove to be accurate.

While Austin-Travis County is in Stage 4 COVID-19 guidelines right now, health leaders say Stage 5 is imminent without immediate action from the community. They say how long this surge lasts is entirely up to the behavior of the people in Central Texas.

“It’s difficult because this virus is moving so quickly through our community to explain and convince this community that they have to mask indoors, but vaccines do not make us invincible,” Walkes said.

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