Pittsburgh infectious disease expert comments on rise of COVID-19 cases after holidays, new variant

Traveling and gatherings for the recent holidays had health experts warning of an increase in COVID-19 cases in the winter.

Allegheny County said for the weeks of Dec. 29- Jan. 10 there were 2,021 new COVID-19 infections, 158 hospitalizations and 25 deaths reported to the county health department. Allegheny County also reached a “medium” level of COVID-19 transmission.

Pittsburgh-based infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja is also a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

He says he’s not surprised by the uptick in cases after the holidays - something he says he expects to see next year as well. Doctor Adalja says the new COVID-19 variant dubbed “Kraken” which was found in western Pennsylvania also should not come as a shock.

“The development of this new variant Xpb 1.5 isn’t something that should be surprising,” said Adalja. ‘The virus is facing pressure to be able to infect us and it’s not the same thing as the population in 2020 where there is no immunity. people have been vaccinated, they’ve been boosted they’ve got a prior infection or they’ve got a combination of all of those 3 things which are constraining the ability of the virus.”

Though Allegheny County may have hit the medium level - officials confirmed the county dropped to a “low” community level as of Jan. 13.

Adalja said while COVID-19 may never go away, he does not expect an overload of hospitalizations and death.

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