In mid-January, are we getting closer to the peak of Omicron?

Now in mid-January, whether the end of the wave might be near is the highly-anticipated question.
Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:21 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Fifteen more deaths and more than 8,500 new cases. Those are the latest numbers from the Oregon Health Authority amid the surge of the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

Now in mid-January, whether the end of the wave might be near is the highly-anticipated question.

Oregon public health leaders have predicted the state will hit the peak of the Omicron surge by the end of January and perhaps as soon as this week.

Whether that’s the case, only time and more data collections will tell for sure, but in Washington County, some researchers tracking COVID believe cases are still climbing.

“According to our wastewater we haven’t hit our peak yet, but honestly I’m not that surprised because Oregon has been a little bit behind in our Omicron surge compared to other states,” said Blythe Layton, the water resources program manager at Clean Water Services.

FOX 12 spoke with Layton Wednesday about how Clean Water Services tracks COVID-19 levels in human waste by sampling and testing wastewater.

The water samples are collected twice a week and tested once a week.

Sampling wastewater has been an early indicator of disease in a community, as research shows people shed the virus in their waste before they start showing symptoms such as coughing or sneezing.

With prior strains of COVID, an uptick of the virus could be detected about a week or two before an increase of positive COVID tests were reported.

However, Omicron has been different, according to Layton, who said the variant is presenting in wastewater along the same timeframe as people are testing positive for the virus.

These days getting a test is tough and so is getting an accurate assessment of how many people are testing positive.

“Now days with so many people taking home tests and a lot of those not getting reported to OHA, wastewater is in a lot of ways a more reliable indicator of what’s going on out there then the reported case numbers,” Layton said.

Another indicator is, of course, hospital capacity. As you’ve probably heard, hospitals are full and COVID is everywhere.

“More patients who are COVID positive are requiring surgery at this point in time, emergency surgery, things that have to happen,” said Nicholas Eng, a surgical nurse at Kaiser Permanente’s Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro. “I’m seeing that more than I’ve seen in this pandemic.”

Eng said the hospital has been preparing for the peak of the wave by canceling and delaying some surgeries in order create more space for a further uptick in sick patients.