The latest COVID-19 surge could be the final one before the disease becomes more of a background presence, Mobile County Health Officer Bert Eichold told members of the Mobile City Council during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Given public vaccination status nationwide and the number of people exposed, Eichold said once the area gets over its fourth surge, which is happening now with the Omicron variant, COVID-19 could become more like the flu and be less of a public health concern.
“When we get through this wave we’ll be in a much better situation,” he said.
COVID-19 will never be eliminated completely, Eichold said, and whether it becomes less of a problem depends on if there are more variants on the horizon.
To help weather the latest wave, Eichold still recommends Mobile County residents wear masks while indoors, to social distance, to wash hands and to get vaccinated.
While cases are increasing in the area, the severity of the illness from the Omicron variant seems to be less than in the previous versions of the virus. Hospitalizations are rising too, Eichold said, but at a fraction of where the county was during the worst parts of the surge caused by Delta.
“This spike will be higher in terms of numbers, but illness will be less intense,” he said. “It will still take some lives.”
Currently, Mobile County has reported 96 hospitalizations in the last 14 days, due to the latest surge and about 15 of those patients are in intensive care units, Eichold said. There have been about 7,000 reported cases in that time.
Forty percent of those currently in the hospital have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Eichold said. Most, he said, but not all have underlying medical conditions and the new variant seems to break through natural immunity as well.
“The illness is less intense if you have some form of immunity,” Eichold said.
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