So, we've got the data — lots of data. The good news is that not many people are hospitalized with the omicron, but it appears to be awfully infectious. That's our snap judgment from Peterson Health's data dump on Monday — 39 positive tests. It's the 17 people, or 43%, who were vaccinated that is a bit troubling.
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HOLIDAY POLICE BLOTTER
The Kerrville Police Department had a busy Christmas weekend with five driving while intoxicated arrests, including two between 4-5 a.m. on Christmas. The department also handled three unattended deaths, including two on Christmas Eve. From 2018-2020, KPD made three suspected drunk driving arrests. Of course, this was a long weekend with many people off work on a Friday night. The previous weekend, KPD also made five suspected drunk driving arrests.
The data is all over the place here. No one seems to know what they're looking at when it comes to omicron. Some say it's milder — like an annoying cold. Others say if mild means losing your sense of smell for a few weeks — then that's not exactly mild. The biggest bellwether here will be hospitalizations — vaccinated and unvaccinated. Peterson Regional Medical Center currently has seven people hospitalized, including two in the intensive care unit.
See, we've got more people vaccinated and boosted than before, and that should provide a measure of prevention. However, in largely unvaccinated Kerr County and its largely unvaccinated neighboring counties, it could lead to more breakthrough infections.
WHAT DOES THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SAY?
The University of Texas examined the outlook for transmission of the COVID-19 omicron variant and found plenty of reasons to be pessimistic. Even the study's optimistic view was pessimistic.
"Omicron could lead to the largest healthcare surge to date, unless measures are taken to slow spread. In this extreme scenario, we project a wave that peaks on Feb. 3, 2022, with cases, hospital admissions, and deaths reaching levels that are 2.2, 1.8 , and 1.2 times higher than the January 2021 peak," the study said.
The optimistic part? Well, the study's authors said it would still be worse than January 2021. If the pessimistic scenario applied to Kerr County, that would mean about 50 deaths. Considering Peterson Regional Medical Center already deals with a significant census of people admitted, that doesn't bode well on the hospitalization front.
The report was written by: Anass Bouchnita, Spencer J. Fox, Michael Lachmann, Jose L. Herrera-Diestra, Graham Gibson and Lauren Ancel Meyers.
A VOICE OF OPTIMISM
One of the experts we turn to is Harvard emergency physician Dr. Jeremy Faust, and he thinks we're in for better outcomes in 2022.
"Are we destined to live variant-to-variant? For now, it's reasonable to assume so," Faust wrote in his Monday update on InsideMedicine. "But with each variant, we will get better at predicting whether our vaccines will hold up and we'll have more information about the biology of a variant sooner. Indeed, as Omicron has proven, scientists are up to the challenge of assessing new threats quickly. In just a month, we already know more about Omicron than we know about some other viruses that have been circulating for ages. So, in 2022 and beyond, we can expect more moments of uncertainty, but we should also anticipate that those moments will be briefer and our response swifter and smarter each time."
Read more of his work here: https://insidemedicine.bulletin.com/the-year-in-covid-19-and-the-year-ahead
WHAT'S GOING ON IN TEXAS?
Across Texas, there were more than 15,000 new COVID-19 cases, but new hospitalizations remained below 4,000 people. Positivity, however, reached its highest percentage of the pandemic, with more than 21% tested, resulting in positive cases.
On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a statement blaming the federal government for running out of monoclonal antibodies.
"The federal government controls the distribution of monoclonal antibodies, and the regional infusion centers in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio and The Woodlands have exhausted their supply of sotrovimab, the monoclonal antibody effective against the COVID-19 Omicron variant, due to the national shortage from the federal government," the agency wrote. "They will not be able to offer it until federal authorities ship additional courses of sotrovimab to Texas in January. People who had appointments scheduled this week will be contacted directly and advised. Other monoclonal antibodies have not shown to be effective against the Omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 90 percent of new cases. The infusion centers will continue to offer those antibodies as prescribed by health care providers for people diagnosed with a non-Omicron case of COVID-19."
The exact number of positive cases in Kerr County remains hard to define because of inconsistent reporting from DSHS.
COVID CANCELING STUFF
- Kerrville-based Americana artist Robert Earl Keen announced the suspension of his tour after a member of his band tested positive for the virus. Keen was to play the historic Ryman Theater on Tuesday in Nashville.
- COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on college football bowl games. On Sunday, Miami pulled out of the Sun Bowl against Washington State. On Monday, Boise State, citing a shortage of players, said it was bowing out of the Arizona Bowl against Central Michigan.
- In men's college basketball, 71 programs have paused their seasons due to issues with the virus. Included on the list is Houston, Abilene Christian, Texas Southern and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
- Flight cancellations plagued Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field, with more than 61 flights delayed or canceled. In San Antonio, the situation was better, with three flights confirmed canceled and 20 delayed.
THINGS WE'VE BEEN WORKING ON
- We checked out the latest mega food distribution at Light on the Hill, the Methodist Church campus, which has been the home of these drive-through efforts since the pandemic started. Here's our story: https://kerrcountylead.com/san-antonio-food-bank-makes-another-impactful-delivery-to-close-2021-in-kerrville
- Kerr County celebrated Christmas in a big way this year, many shared their experiences on Instagram: https://kerrcountylead.com/the-best-of-kerr-county-christmas-on-instagram
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