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Mayo: Omicron has peaked, meaning Minnesota is halfway through surge

Modeling scientists say cases and hospitalizations now in decline, but have a long way to go. With 1 in 4 residents already infected, the state could see up to 1 in every 2 Minnesotans having been

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Mayo Clinic data scientists say the omicron surge has peaked in the state, with 1 in 4 residents having contracted the virus so far.
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ROCHESTER — Mayo Clinic data scientists say the COVID-19 peak has recently passed in the state, meaning new daily case numbers are now dropping.

The omicron surge is believed to have peaked at roughly 300 active cases per 100,000 residents, or 5% of the state population, according to Clinic predictive modeling.

"It's likely that Minnesota has already peaked in the number of active infections," said Dr. Curtis Storlie during a media call on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Storlie said delays in data processing meant that the peak has yet to show up in state averages, but that hospitalizations will soon follow a similar, sharply downward pattern.

Storlie stressed that the state having passed the omicron peak was not the end of omicron, but merely the start to the end of omicron.

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"It means were half done with the current surge," the Mayo data scientist said. "There's going to be thousands of infections and hospitalizations on the way back down."

The clinic's forecasting model proved correct in timing the the peak, he said, but overestimated total case numbers at the top, due to at-home rapid antigen testing results that went unreported.

Two weeks ago the Clinic's modeling initiative predicted a possibility that the state could reach 400 cases per 100,000 residents.

The true peak is likely to have occurred at just over 300 cases per 100,000 residents, a point at which 5% of the state was actively infected at the same time.

It is estimated that 25% of the population in Minnesota has contracted the variant in the weeks leading up to this point.

With a long decline still ahead, the combined toll is yet to be tallied. Before it is over, Storlie says the state is likely to have witnessed 1 in 2 Minnesotans having contracted the highly transmissible strain.

From mid-December 2021 until mid-March 2022, "somewhere between 40-50% of the population will have been infected with omicron," Storlie wrote in an email.

That figure includes the number of residents believed to have tested positive at home, as well as those who were positive but not tested at all.

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Though he says the state can expect a period of relative calm for a few months following the end of surge, without booster shots, the arrival of new variants is highly likely.

"The virus will continue to evolve," Storlie said. "We're already seeing news of a new variant ... and our immunity is going away. We have to take boosting seriously if we want any chance of putting COVID behind us."

"It will be 'Groundhog Day'," he said of the future for a Minnesota that continues to delay booster shots. "We're going to keep seeing this cycle."

"Will it ever be as bad as this surge? Hopefully not. But if we don't want to take advantage of this opportunity that science has given us, we're going to see another surge."

The Mayo Clinic stressed the need for continued vigilance in the form of masking, avoiding crowded spaces and following guidance if you are infected.

"If we take how busy our hospital is now, we may be at or close to a peak," said Dr. Connor Loftus, chair, Mayo Clinic outpatient practice, "but we have as many patients in the hospital this week as the same time last week. This is not the time to be letting our guard down."

Paul John Scott is the health reporter for NewsMD and the Rochester Post Bulletin. He is a novelist and was an award-winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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