Back in October, I published an optimistic post about the declining rates of Covid infection in Chester County. Unfortunately, that trend didn’t last. In early November, the rates of infection started climbing again, and the current trend is not good. The New York Times is reporting that new Covid cases in Chester County are averaging over 200 per day—a rate that hasn’t been seen since last winter.

And the number of new cases reported on Friday, December 10, was 434. Although that is sure to be an extreme outlier and not a normal count going forward, I believe it represents a new record for our county. There were a handful of days in January of 2021 when the case counts were in the high 300s, but none reached 400, as far as I can determine. And that was pre-vaccine.

Here’s the chart for Chester County from the Times on December 11:

Chester County Covid infections per day for the three months ending December 10, 2021. The tall yellow bar on November 13 is an anomaly due to a change in reporting policies and does not represent an actual daily count. Source: New York Times.

Adding to the ominous news is the threat of the omicron variant. The numbers reported by the Times are probably almost all from delta-variant infections, not omicron.

Here at Kendal, we have defenses. Kendal’s situation is quite different from the surrounding county. Here, we are all fully vaccinated and boostered. For comparison, in Chester County as a whole, the percentage of fully vaccinated people (including children who are too young to be eligible) is still only 40% according to the county health department. Counting just those who are age 20 and above, the rate is 74%. The county isn’t reporting booster-shot levels.

Kendal has instituted indoor masking and good ventilation, both of which may not be as common in the rest of the county. And we have various forms of monitoring of residents, staff, and visitors, with quarantining when needed.

All of those measures mean that Covid is much less of a threat here than in Chester County as a whole. And because of our vaccinations and boosters, cases that do occur are not likely to be life-threatening. We don’t know how much of a health threat the omicron variant will turn out to be, but the early reports suggest infections may be mild, especially among those who have been vaccinated.

How to read the omicron news. Omicron, which will surely reach us soon if it isn’t here already, is more transmissible than delta. Omicron infections are doubling every few days in Denmark and the UK, and it’s possible the US will experience the same thing.

You can get a good sense of how the scientific community is monitoring omicron, and how it is testing the virus in the lab, from reading an excellent article written by a Covid virologist and published in The Conversation. It looks as if vaccination, boosters, and previous infections all provide partial protection. And, based on lab tests, fully-vaccinated people who have also had the disease may be able to avoid infection by omicron.

But those results are from lab testing, not the real world. The actual case data so far is sparse, but it suggests omicron infections may be milder, and may be more likely in younger people. Stay tuned.