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Omicron-fueled COVID-19 surges to pandemic high-point in Coconino County

COVID vaccine
AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File
In this March 26, 2021, file photo a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site setup in Philadelphia.

Coconino County health officials on Friday reported nearly 1,500 new COVID-19 infections during the last week of 2020. It was the highest number of new local known cases yet during the pandemic.

COVID infections in Coconino County have exceeded the previous high-point from last January. The current surge is being driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

"We are seeing definitely our highest numbers and certainly our highest percent positivity of as well. We did have one in four of our last week’s testing numbers were positive for COVID that had tested," says Coconino County’s Health and Human Services Director Kim Musselman.

Musselman says the surge, which is just beginning in Arizona, is likely to peak locally within the next four to six weeks, based on its behavior elsewhere in the country. On the East Coast where cases shot up weeks ago, omicron came on rapidly, took over as the dominant variant and then drove up cases very quickly.

Though omicron spreads faster than previous variants, symptoms appear to be less serious.

County health officials continue to urge the public to get vaccinated and boosted, and say keeping children in school is a major priority along with maintaining essential services that’ve been heavily stressed throughout the U.S.

Musselman anticipates continued high numbers of COVID infections in this Friday’s virus report.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.