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January 12, 2022

Omicron surge may have peaked in the Philly region, but hospitals remain stressed

New cases have fallen in recent days, but hospitalizations continue to rise

Illness COVID-19
Philly omicron peak Anne-Marie Caruso/NorthJersey.com

New COVID-19 cases have fallen in recent days in the Philadelphia region, suggesting the omicron surge may have peaked. Above, a woman is tested for the coronavirus in Morris County, New Jersey earlier this week.

COVID-19 cases remain high in the Philadelphia region, but there are signs the omicron surge has peaked. 

Philadelphia recorded 2,978 new cases Tuesday, but that was down slightly from the city's all-time high of 3,108 cases recorded last week, Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said at a press conference Tuesday. About 31.5% of COVID-19 test results are coming back positive, down from 40% last week. 

This may indicate omicron infections are plateauing in the city, Bettigole said. But it also could be a plateau en route to a higher peak. 

Though the city experienced a "giant exposure" over Christmas, Philadelphia residents were more cautious about New Year's celebrations, lessoning omicron's blow, Bettigole said.

The city's case totals fall in line with the downward trend seen across the East Coast

Still, the number of hospitalizations in Philadelphia continues to rise, leaving the city's health care system "extremely stretched," Bettigole said. Hospitalization trends generally lag behind trends in cases.

There were 1,107 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Philadelphia hospitals Wednesday, up from 716 one week ago, according to Pennsylvania's COVID-19 dashboard. There were 102 intensive care unit beds available, down from 125.

Though the system is strained, Bettigole said hospitals have not reached a crisis point where they need to turn away patients. 

Trends are similar in New Jersey, where case numbers have begun to tick down but hospitalizations are still growing. Gov. Phil Murphy extended the state's emergency declaration Tuesday.

There were 1,442 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in South Jersey on Tuesday, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard, up from 923 on Jan. 1. But new cases in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties have fallen from the peaks recorded several days ago. 

There are many counties in Pennsylvania where per capita case rates remain higher than 20,000 per 100,000 residents, but the Philadelphia suburbs are all reporting fewer than 19,000 cases per 100,000 residents. 

The case totals in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties are all down from peaks recorded last week.

Though public health officials are hopeful that cases are plateauing, case numbers and hospitalization rates don't always move in the smooth arcs.

New case rates are trending down overall across the Philly region overall, but day-to-day numbers can vacillate unpredictably. For instance, new cases in Bucks and Montgomery counties increased by 359 and 365 respectively between Monday and Tuesday.

Public health officials have repeatedly stressed that getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent infection or hospitalization. Pennsylvania and New Jersey each have websites that can help residents find vaccine appointments. 

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