SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Omicron is on the rise and California now has the highest positivity rate of any point in the pandemic and more than 23,000 cases a day.

Even with a 20.4 percent positivity rate, the state still has some of the lowest case numbers in the nation.

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But what do the numbers mean, and how does where we are now compare to 2020?

Empty businesses. Empty gyms. Empty streets. 2022 marks a new reality.

Signs say open. Masks are the new normal. Long lines formed at Cal Expo Tuesday where people waited hours to get a COVID test.

“Just to see if everything’s OK,” said Sacramento resident Josie Lee.

Yolo County Health Director Dr. Aimee Sisson says 2022 is a different world.

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“The big difference here is the fact that we have vaccination and immunotherapies,” Dr. Sisson said. “And while the vaccines still allow some infection through, they still prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death.”

Dr. Sisson says winter omicron case numbers are expected to be higher than winter 2020 delta numbers.

But hospitalizations are expected to be the same, making omicron far more contagious but possibly less severe.

“I don’t want to say that we’re not going to have more hospitalizations, but when we look around the world, particularly the UK, you see really high case rates,” Sisson said. “But the hospitalizations are much lower than they were with delta. In the UK, it’s about half of the hospitalizations.”

Dr. Sisson says we still don’t have herd immunity and getting there will take more time.

“I think what we can do in the short term, what we can do to protect ourselves from infection and severe disease right now, needs to be our focus,” Sisson said.

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In Yolo County, just over 3% of tests are coming back positive. But despite fewer hospitalizations, the county currently has  zero available ICU beds.

Elizabeth Klinge