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Omicron surge may have peaked in Louisville, mayor still urges caution

Mayor Greg Fischer said local wastewater data used to track virus prevalence and variants in the community signal cases could be decreasing.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville's mayor said the metro may have reached its peak of new cases from the omicron surge, but won't know for sure until next week. 

"As next week and the week after that comes on board, we will be able to more definitively — with humility — talk about maybe we're coming down from the peak," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) said. "We're seeing some evidence in our wastewater data that's also indicating that as well."

Fischer said local wastewater data used to track virus prevalence and variants in the community signal cases could be decreasing. 

He also said trends from the east coast and around the world show, omicron surges appear to rise rapidly and decline just as quickly.

"You will see a very rapid rise with omicron, with a peak in about three or four weeks, and then we see a rapid decline in three or four weeks as well," Fischer said. "Our numbers are seeming to indicate we're at that peak right now."

Even if this is the peak, officials remind the public it will be a week or two before case numbers drop. 

The nature of the curve means that even if this is the plateau, we're not out of the woods," said Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, associate medical director for the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness. "We'll still have just as many cases on our way down the backside of the curve as we did on the way up the front side."

Jefferson County's positivity rate now sits at 34%

As the omicron variant continues to rapidly spread across the globe, the effects of the virus are still being felt strongly in metro Louisville.

With more than 16,000 new COVID-19 cases reported over the last seven days, Jefferson County has a positivity rate of 34%.

Hartlage said that's a new high. 

Death counts have thankfully not gone up in association with omicron, but Jefferson County is still reaching record levels of COVID hospitalizations.

According to city data, COVID patients made up 31% of the total in-patient population. 

There is also a record number of people hospitalized with the virus. As of Jan. 18, 539 COVID patients were currently in hospitals across the metro.

That's 35% higher than the commonwealth's record hospitalization rate prior to the omicron surge when 399 people were hospitalized with COVID on Dec. 2, 2020. 

Credit: WHAS
As of Jan. 18, 2022, 539 people were being treated for COVID. During the height of the first COVID surge, 399 people were hospitalized with COVID. The second COVID surge led to a peak of 380 COVID-related hospitalizations. This graph, which was edited by WHAS, is from Louisville Metro Public Health's website.

The Pandemic and Mental Health

Now in its third year, the pandemic has disrupted the structure that people need to function in a healthy way. During Tuesday's briefing, Louisville health officials spoke about the mental toll of the virus.

"COVID is a trauma... trauma can be anything that affects your day-to-day life," said Dr. Lauren Muir, a certified clinical trauma specialist with Martin and Muir Counseling.

Dr. Muir noted that at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of anxiety and fear.

"Obviously, we all fear the unknown, and no one was exactly sure what the next few days, weeks, months... what was to lie ahead," she said.

People had to adjust to changes like school schedules, working from home, being alone, not being able to interact with people and so much more.

Muir said people are resilient but can see anxiety with numbers on the rise again. 

"We recognize that our lives are not going back to normal and we have so many precautions that we have to take to keep ourselves, our family, and each other healthy," said Muir.

RELATED: Mental health concerns on the rise as pandemic drags on

The symptoms to look out for if you think you or a loved one may be struggling with mental health are increased worry, sadness and hopelessness. Typically, people in a mental health crisis won't get enough sleep or enough to eat, and they tend to stop enjoying certain things they used to enjoy.

Muir said mental health is a spectrum, and when people don't feel like themselves day in and day out to the point it affects daily functioning, that's when you should seek help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 1-800-273-8255. Additional resources in Louisville are listed below.

Credit: Louisville Metro Dept. of Public Health & Wellness

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