This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist was preparing a patient’s sample for SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing, using the CDC serologic test. (James Gathany/CDC 2020)

The worst of the omicron surge in Alameda County may be over, the county health officer said Tuesday at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Case rates and hospitalizations are still high but falling, health officer Nicholas Moss said. Case rates are falling more slowly than they went up.

The daily case rate is 170 per 100,000 residents and 416 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, Moss said. Seventy-four people are in intensive care with the coronavirus.

“We seem to be past the peak,” Moss said. Adding that, “We’re not quite out of the woods yet.”

The peak daily case rate was 266.7 on Jan. 10 and the peak number of hospitalizations was 450 on Jan. 27. Intensive care cases peaked at 79 on Jan. 29, the county’s data dashboard shows.

Moss said hospitalizations should continue to decrease. The spread of the omicron subvariant BA.2 is not expected to change that prediction, Moss said.

BA.2 appears to spread more easily than its parent, but the severity appears to be similar. Moss said the COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots appear to be effective against BA.2.

After the omicron surge subsides, the COVID risk will continue and people will see more surges, Moss said. Vaccination and testing will continue to be public health priorities, he said.

He said residents can expect to see easing of emergency requirements such as indoor masking, but masks will continue to be important. Even if they are not required, Moss said, they will be a good thing for people to use when they are sick.

In terms of preventing illness due to COVID, vaccination is the tool, Moss said.

Alameda County is one of the most highly vaccinated areas in the nation, Moss said. With 81.4 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the county is sixth or seventh among all California counties, he said.

Alameda County has “not seen the same type of overwhelm” of its health care system as places with lower vaccination rates, Moss said.

“It’s great than we’re in the low 80s,” said board vice chair Nate Miley, sitting in for board chair Keith Carson, who was excused.

Miley asked Moss about herd immunity, whether COVID-19 would become endemic and when life would return to normal.

Moss said herd immunity and endemic don’t really apply right now, and that life won’t ever return to the way things were in 2019, he said.

“It’s more like we’re getting closer and closer to the new normal,” Moss said.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.