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Allegheny health director: More than 400 covid deaths since October - TribLIVE

More than 400 people have died in Allegheny County covid-related deaths in the past three months, including 97 in December, county Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said Wednesday.

Covid-19 case counts remain at a daily average of 600 per day, while “hospitalizations remain high, as do deaths,” Bogen said.

“I don’t see these numbers improving anytime soon,” she said.

In the last quarter of the year, 413 people have died from the virus, including 177 in October, 139 in November and 97 so far in December, Bogen said. Eighteen of those December deaths were in the 30 to 59 age group, and all were unvaccinated.

“These deaths are as tragic as they are unnecessary and premature,” Bogen said.

The grim numbers come as the omicron variant spreads across the country – it is now the dominant variant nationwide – and millions plan to travel and gather during the coming holidays.

Bogen said there have been no lab-confirmed cases of omicron in Allegheny County, but it has been detected in the county’s wastewater.

Not every covid-19 test undergoes sequencing, meaning most samples aren’t broken down by variant. Bogen said it is “just a matter of days” until one of the tests sequenced in Allegheny County is found to be the omicron variant.

In other areas, once omicron has been found in the community, it’s become the predominant strain “very, very quickly,” she said. “We don’t think it will be any different here.”

The mutations and variants, Bogen said, are just “virology in action” and “no one is to blame.”

“Variants are naturally occurring changes in viruses,” she said, pointing to the flu and the need for new flu vaccines each year.

“As long as covid-19 spreads, we can expect new changes and new variants,” she said.

She urged the continued use of masks, which she said can cut transmission of the virus by up to 50%. A new mandate is not on the horizon, she said.

“You don’t need a mask mandate to do the right thing,” she said.

County health officials also announced a change to the format in which county-level covid data will be released. The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently switched to a weekly release of information, and Allegheny County will follow suit.

The daily updates, Bogen said, show spikes and variations but do not offer insight into trends. The new reports, set to be released every Tuesday starting next week, also will include information on breakthrough cases and deaths broken down by vaccination status. The county’s online data dashboard will be updated each business day.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .