Omicron surge in Berkeley is peaking, health officer says

Cases may plateau and begin to drop in the coming days, but the city’s health official warned variants could cause more surges in the future.

COVID-19 case numbers from the city show a peaking of cases in the last week of January. Credit: City of Berkeley

The omicron surge in Berkeley — which began in late December and sent COVID-19 case numbers skyrocketing to levels five times higher than the previous record last January — is now peaking, Berkeley’s health officer said Tuesday during a City Council meeting.

“We are plateauing and hopefully going to be decreasing,” Dr. Lisa Hernandez said, noting that numbers are on the decline in places like the East Coast where the omicron wave took hold earlier than it did in Berkeley.

Hernandez attributed a relatively flat hospitalization curve in Berkeley to the city and county’s high vaccine and booster rates.

Berkeley recorded about 1,200 cases in the last week, compared with about 1,000 cases the week prior, showing a slight flattening in the dramatic increases the region was seeing from December to January. These numbers are still much higher than the previous surge, where daily case totals were around 60 cases (compared with a recent daily case record of 352).

According to Alameda County data, there was only one COVID-19 death in Berkeley in the first week of December. The winter surge saw fatalities in the double digits.

Omicron hasn’t resulted in state-mandated closures, but it’s temporarily closed restaurants and other sectors due to staffing shortages and other challenges.

While the region was better prepared for this surge, health experts across the country are urging people to continue getting vaccinated and using mitigation measures like masking, social distancing and hand-washing when new variants inevitably surface.

“This is probably not going to be the last surge that we will see, because we will continue to see variants until we have more vaccination globally,” Hernandez said.  

Supriya Yelimeli is Berkeleyside's homelessness and housing reporter. Email: supriya@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: SupriyaYelimeli. Phone: 510-585-8315.