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One year ago Sonoma County, the North Bay and the Bay Area were in the midst of the worst of the winter coronavirus surge. Vaccines had yet to become widely available, and on January 4th Sonoma County recorded what remains its single highest daily tally of 610 cases.

A year later, the Omicron variant is surging across the region, sending the case rate to heights not seen since January 2021. But with county vaccinations now at 83% (full or partial) far fewer hospitalizations and deaths are being seen. In addition, although the new variant is much more effective at breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people, mounting evidence suggests that health outcomes, for most people, are less dire.

Studies have also shown the variant to be mainly an upper respiratory illness, less able to enter the lungs of most people, a characteristic of previous variants that was most dangerous. However, data shows unvaccinated individuals are still at a much greater risk of both infection and dangerous illness than those who are vaccinated.


New cases in January 2021 (Image 1), and most recent surge numbers. (Image 2)

Daily case rate per 100K residents among vaccinated and unvaccinated. (Image 3)

The unvaccinated case rate is more than 80, while the vaccinated case rate is under 40. But while the Omicron variant has resulted in more “breakthrough” infections among the vaccinated, health outcomes are in general far less serious among those who have received full vaccination.


Hospitalizations reached their peak during the winter 2021 surge. (Image 4) During the current Omicron surge, the numbers are far less. (Image 5)

The number of patients admitted into county ICU beds, an indicator of severe illness, is also are lower this winter (Image 6) than last winter and during the summer Delta surge. (Image 7)


The overall California case (Image , hospitalization (Image 9) and death rates (Image 10) closely mirror Sonoma County.

Also, the percentage of positive tests has soared, confirming the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant. In December it exceeded 20% in California (Image 11). In Sonoma County the latest figure was 11.7%.


The hospitalization data for California confirms how much more dangerous the Omicron variant is for older people. This chart tracks hospitalizations based upon age. (Image 12)

Although the latest surge across the country is expected to soon reach a peak (mid January), data gathered from other countries where Omicron arrived first suggests that case rates may begin to decline rapidly after that across the nation.

The first declines are expected in the eastern U.S. (where the surge arrived first), and later in January into early to mid February in places like California where the surge was delayed by several weeks.

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