The omicron variant is shattering pandemic records related to COVID-19 cases across the Copper Country. Health officials say the numbers are almost assuredly higher as home testing results are rarely publicized. Western Upper Peninsula Health Department Chief Health Officer Kate Beer says that they should be treated as suspected cases, but are not considered confirmed, so even if someone alerts the agency about a positive home test it is not permitted to be included in the official count.
Houghton County recorded 609 new cases in the week ending January 19th. Baraga saw 112 and Keweenaw County notched 36. The positivity rate was nearly 30 percent on a combined basis, consistent with readings seen during omicron surges in other parts of the country. Beer says cases are rising exponentially with each new report.
The University of California Berkeley published a study recently suggesting that omicron was significantly less lethal than delta and previous COVID-19 variants. After looking at 70,000 cases, the researchers found omicron led to 53 percent fewer hospitalizations, 74 percent fewer admissions to intensive care units, and 91 percent fewer deaths. The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The high transmissibility of the variant and explosive case count means that deaths are about to tick up, though. Houghton County had four fatalities, Baraga County saw three.