After seven weeks of extensive gains of COVID cases and reinfections in Berks County and across Pennsylvania, the most recent Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard from the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows a much smaller weekly increase statewide, indicating a plateau might be near.
For Berks, it was another upturn of 75 cases for the week to a rate 149.8 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 18.7%.
Statewide, the increase was only 305 cases to a rate of 173.7 per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 17.3%.
Berks has had a case rate below the state’s during the entire second omicron surge, and this was the first time the positivity rate was higher than the state average.
Meanwhile, Berks is clinging to the moderate risk designation in the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update. Most of the counties around Berks are considered high risk.
The only counties not high risk are Lebanon and Lancaster to the west.
Some of those adjoining high-risk counties — Chester, Lehigh and Montgomery — had been state leaders in cases during the surge but cooled off in the latest weekly report. It remains to be seen how long they stay high risk.
Some of the statistics in the second omicron surge would have alarmed state health officials in phases of the pandemic period. The pandemic hasn’t been officially declared over.
Pennsylvania dropped daily updates on May 4 and went to weekly updates of its main COVID dashboard and monthly press releases about cases, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.
The count of COVID deaths of Berks residents is 1,601, with COVID deaths recorded in Berks at 1,457.
Hundreds of Berks residents have died outside the county and a lesser number of nonresidents have died in Berks. The exact numbers are no longer tracked.
In another weekly update, second boosters and fourth shots for the immunocompromised continued to be the main driver of vaccinations.
For Berks, there were 15,099 residents in that category, up nearly 2,000 in a week.
That was more than double the other categories combined: completion of the initial two-dose treatment to be considered fully vaccinated and first boosters or third shots for the immunocompromised.
Officials are concerned that the protection of vaccines wane, leaving those who aren’t up to date increasingly open to infection.
Hospitalized statistics in Berks bear that out with at least as many considered vaccinated hospitalized as not vaccinated.
The state health department hasn’t issued statistics on vaccinated vs. unvaccinated cases and hospitalizations in six weeks. The health department hasn’t issued statistics on vaccinated vs. unvaccinated deaths since February totals.
However, the third omicron derivative driving the current surge, BA.2.12.1, is also more resistant to vaccines plus few people are wearing masks and social distancing.
The national picture
According to the CDC, BA.2.12.1 is now the dominant source of COVID in the country. It had already been the main case driver in the mid-Atlantic.
The second derivative of omicron, BA.2, remains the other significant source of cases.
Nationally, the seven-day case average has more than quadrupled since bottoming out after the initial omicron blitz but there are signs that those case numbers also plateauing, according to the CDC.
The latest seven-day average is 109,643 cases, up slightly from a week earlier, according to the CDC. The 2022 low point in the seven-day average was 24,843 on March 29.
The current seven-day average is about 15% of the same average at the height of the first omicron surge.
Source: Berkshire mont