Health officials eye next phase of the pandemic in Summit County |

Health officials eye next phase of the pandemic in Summit County

Case counts still high but continue to drop from peak

The Summit County Health Department.
Park Record file photo

As coronavirus cases in Summit County continue to decline, health experts are looking ahead to what the next phase of the pandemic may mean for the community.

The apparent downward trend gave health officials reason to be optimistic last week, and they hoped the trend could be sustained. This week, case counts in the county have continued to dip. The tally on Sunday was 42, for instance, the lowest mark since Dec. 26.

As overall data indicates Summit County may have reached the peak of the omicron wave, experts are now looking to the future.

Summit County Health Director Phil Bondurant said that moving forward, it’s important for people to continue assessing how they can do their part to keep case counts low and limit risks.

“I think if the community can commit to doing their part, whatever that may be, for some that is going to be wearing masks, for me and my family it’s being vaccinated, what can they do to keep these trends on the current trajectory?” Bondurant said. “And if it’s staying home when you’re sick and not going to work, or doing something to help slow this transmission, that’s what we’re asking for.”

Bondurant acknowledged that the Health Department won’t be able to convince everyone to receive a vaccine or booster shot, but said they remain some of the best tools in fighting the coronavirus and preventing future outbreaks as more variants emerge. The authorization of the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID is also going to be a game-changer for some patients.

“I know that folks are committed to this community, I know they want to see this community succeed and be successful to get back to normal. These are all things that we all want. This is not an east versus west issue — this is a community-wide effort to help us get through the next few months and get into that springtime … where we see these cases die down like last year,” he said.

The highly transmissible but less severe nature of the omicron variant indicates the pandemic is beginning to shift toward being endemic, according to Bondurant. That occurs when a disease is regularly found in the community but infection rates remain static. He added that having the right mechanisms to treat an active infection and having a better understanding of the coronavirus will also lead to COVID-19 being declared endemic but it’s still too early to make the call.

“When we can get to a point where the hospitalizations follow a similar line to the graphs we see on our website where it’s predictable, that’s when I think we’re going to start having conversations about what it means to be on the backside of COVID,” said Bondurant.

He continued, “I promise there’s no one in the community that wants COVID-19 to end more than public health,” he said. “We want to get back to public health and I think we’re closer now than we’ve been throughout the entire pandemic. We’re not quite there but we’re keeping our finger on the pulse.”

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