COVID-19 cases are surging in Riley County, but local health officials said we won’t see the peak for a week or more.

Riley County Health director Julie Gibbs and Ascension Via Christi president Bob Copple spoke on Facebook live on Thursday.

As college students return to town and indoor events continue, numbers may stay elevated for awhile, Gibbs said. “We are hopeful that within the next week or two we’ll see that peak, and we’ll start to get some relief,” she said.

Gibbs said the department is seeing more Omicron variants among COVID-19 cases.

“We can almost say with absolute certainty that most of our new cases are the Omicron due to the fact that it’s spreading so quickly,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said Omicron peaks about 24 days after it arrives in a given location.

Copple said in terms of severity of cases, the hospital has lost more people in the last 90 days than in the previous 18 months.

Between Oct. 14 and Jan. 14, 13 people at the hospital died from COVID-related causes. Since Ascension Via Christi’s first COVID-related death on April 25, 2020, 50 people have died at the hospital.

“We have had a third of all of our COVID deaths in the last 90 days,” Copple said.

Copple also said that over the last month, he is seeing more hospital patients in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and many are unvaccinated.

Copple said he talked to outpatient primary care providers in Manhattan; they said they have never in their careers seen the volume of patients they are seeing right now.

“That’s because COVID is not happening within a vacuum,” Copple said. “We still have all of the normal things that happen in January. So we have flu, we have strep, we have lots of people getting colds.”

Officials recommend N-95 or medical masks. At this time Gibbs does not plan to issue any mask or health orders for Riley County.

Copple also said he and other health entities across the state are suffering from staffing shortages.

“Our healthcare workers are now out because of this wave of COVID,” Copple said. “Because everyone lives in a community, we don’t really have community mitigation steps in place anywhere.”

Gibbs said there are currently 1,017 active cases in Riley County; she said this is the highest number of cases that the county has seen since the start of the pandemic.

Gibbs encourages people to get tested if they have symptoms. She is also asking residents to consider getting vaccinated. Testing is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at Manhattan Town Center, and the health department is still providing vaccinations by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays.