Model shows recent surge could be close to peaking

Published 5:57 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

There might be some good news on the COVID-19 front. This was the message from Mayo Clinic staff on Wednesday as they gave an update on the current omicron fueled surge that has the country in its grip.

Curtis Storlie, M.D., data scientist for Mayo Clinic, told journalists on a conference call Wednesday that the hospital’s predictive modeling is suggesting that the current case surge may have already peaked or is nearing its peak very soon.

“Currently, models suggest the seven-day peak in the next few days,” Storlie said. “It’s likely Minnesota has already peaked in active infections.”

Storlie said that data also suggests that the state could soon see a steep drop in daily infections, bringing relief to a highly stressed healthcare system that is struggling to find space in hospitals across the state, as well as dealing with a staffing shortage.

On top of this optimistic news, Storlie said that hospitalizations should follow the same downward trend.

“We’re likely at peak — what does that mean?” Storlie said. “It means we’re half done with this current surge.”

However, Storlie also urged against complacency.

“It’s important to recognize this surge is not over,” he said. “The messaging remains the same. Get the booster if possible.”

Talk eventually turned to what comes next. Part of that messaging is that COVID-19 is probably not going away soon, no matter the drop in cases.

This includes the consideration that this is no longer a pandemic, but rather an endemic.

“I think the whole thing has been the start of it becoming endemic,” Storlie said.

Overall, Storlie said that Mayo’s modeling system has performed well for both the delta strain as well as the current omicron surge.

“The whole process of delta, it did really well in terms of accuracy,” he said. “For omicron, we haven’t compared it to other models, but it’s done remarkably well at identifying peak timing.”

The only hiccup in the omicron surge has been determining the proper amount of positive cases. Storlie indicated that COVID positive cases were likely higher than what was reported because of more people relying on at-home antigen testing, which wouldn’t have been reported like those tests taken at hospitals.

As the state and nation moves forward, it’s possible that COVID could be relegated to the same level as the flu.

“I think we have the power right now to turn this thing into the flu and it’s right now,” Storlie said. “If we want to go take the booster, this becomes less of an annual and more of a biannual for this.”