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Experts predict COVID peak is weeks away

(Tommy Metthe/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 8:00 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama continues to weather the COVID case surge brought on by the Omicron variant. Community transmission is soaring, but there’s an end in sight.

Epidemiologists predict this surge will peak in Alabama in two to three weeks, then cases will return to pre-Omicron levels. That means the positivity rate will be in the single digits again and several hundred cases will be confirmed daily versus six thousand.

That’s until we have another variant and surge in cases. This pattern will continue for the foreseeable future as the virus mutates.

“The goal moving forward is to have people understand the way that these viruses move,” explained Suzanne Judd, epidemiologist with the UAB School of Public Health. “With the cyclic nature, there will be surges and when we’re in a surge it’s important that we mask, it’s important that schools and businesses have guidelines in advance. Because having those guidelines ahead of time will help them to be prepared when the surges come.”

The good news, with every variant public health experts are better equipped to predict and prepare for what’s ahead.

“We had great data from South Africa this time, to know that the hospitalization rate was probably going to be slightly lower with Omicron but that it was going to spread much more rapidly - it gave us the chance as a public health community to get ahead of some of the messaging,” Judd added. “The CDC changed their guidelines right after Christmas, right before the New Year’s holiday because they knew it going to be more rapidly spreading, but people were less likely to be infectious for the full ten day period.”

In the short term, Judd recommends masking and avoiding large crowds for the next few weeks until cases start to decline.

“This is only for two or three weeks, it’s not for the rest of 2022,” Judd stated. “It’s just this surge that we need to make it through.”

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