Health Officials Focus on COVID Hospitalizations, Deaths

HYANNIS – Barnstable County public health officials gave an update on rising case counts of COVID-19 in the region and how other metrics may take precedence in monitoring the virus moving forward.

“Just be wary. We’re seeing a lot of cases and these variants seem to be very infectious,” Director of the county’s Health and Environment Department Sean O’Brien said of the Omicron subvariants.  

O’Brien also said with more people using at-home testing, many cases aren’t represented in official totals.

Vaira Harik, Assistant Barnstable County Administrator, noted that health departments are focusing on other numbers.

“Are intensive care units overburdened? Are hospitalization rates extremely high? Are fatalities high? Those are the metrics we’re charged with keeping a very close weather eye on now,” she said.

Harik added recent community spread of the virus could be linked to the lack of masking efforts, but that hospitalizations have not risen to previous levels.

“Hospitalizations rates are elevated but not to the extent that we saw pre- or intra-vaccination periods. So the vaccine is doing its job in holding down severe cases,” Harik said.

In recent weeks, the county has had around 20 cases in hospitals on any given day, with roughly half there because of COVID, while half are there with COVID but have been admitted for other reasons.

Harik said health departments are often asked how COVID will end, then stated the virus will continue to mutate and it’s likely it will maintain a background status similar to the trajectory the Spanish flu took.

“It’s habituated to us and we are habituating to it,” she said, adding that people must continue to manage their own risks and their own risk appetite.

The health officials encouraged the public to get vaccinated if they are able to do so, including getting second booster shots.

Additional boosters are available for adults ages 50 and over as well as people who are immunocompromised.

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.
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