Minnesota may have seen its omicron surge already peak, but that doesn't mean the significant wave of infections is over.
The Mayo Clinic is advising people to avoid letting their guard down because it will likely take weeks for COVID-19 cases to subside, just as it took weeks for omicron to rise before ultimately reaching a pinnacle.
"I think it's important to recognize the omicron surge is not over. There are going to be thousands of infections and hospitalizations on the way back down, too," said Dr. Curtis Storlie, who is part of Mayo Clinic's Predictive Analytics Task Force that has been tracking and predicting what will happen next during the pandemic.
Last week, Storlie and others at Mayo Clinic suggested that Minnesota may have already hit its omicron peak. But because reported cases lag what is happening in real time, the number of newly reported cases each day by the Minnesota Department of Health makes it appear that the peak is yet to come.
The state reported more than 15,000 new cases on Wednesday and more than 14,000 on Thursday. But the primary driver behind the record newly reported cases is a delay in reporting. You can see in the chart below that there are more than 17,000 positive tests from Jan. 17-25 that are awaiting confirmation. In short, the MDH has been overloaded by tests and can't process them all in a timely manner, which leads a mismatch in what's being reported and what's actually happening in the real world.
Mayo Clinic is still encouraging people get vaccinated and receive a booster shot when eligible, while also promoting mask-wearing in public areas, avoiding crowds and staying home when sick.
And despite omicron possible already peaking in Minnesota, hospital capacity remains very tight statewide.
"If we take how busy our hospital is now in terms of hospitalized patients with COVID, we may be at or close to a peak," said Storlie. "But we've got as many patients in the hospital this week as we did this time last week. So this is not the time for letting our guard down."
The good news is Mayo is predicting omicron to rapidly decline nationwide over the next month, followed by less virus prevalence for a few months. But the good news comes with a warning from Mayo, which says "it's unlikely that it will stay that way" as new variants arise.
Mayo Clinic recognized in its press release that the "stealth" omicron variant (omicron BA.2) has made its way to America, though it remains unclear what this means for people who have immunity through infection, vaccination or both.