Infections rise as health officials expect the Omicron variant to continue to spread
COVID-19 cases in the US increased by nearly 60% this week, largely due to the Omicron version, Rochelle Valensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday. According to the CDC, the seven-day daily average of Covid-19 cases in the US reported nearly 240,400 cases a day, according to the CDC.
“In just a few weeks, Omicron has grown exponentially across the country, and we expect it to continue to circulate in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Valensky said.
As of Wednesday, the average hospitalization for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 was 77,840, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. This is an increase of about 14% over the past two weeks.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations, though rising, is below the pandemic peak of 137,510 on January 10, 2021, and the smaller peak of 102,967 on September 4, 2021, during the delta surge.
Several states halted reporting on cases and deaths during the Christmas weekend and plan to do so again for the new year. Those blackouts will blur the tracking of the full extent of the pandemic’s trajectory until January, when reporting takes hold.
Still, the demand for COVID-19 testing has increased and pushed some providers to the limit. Urgent Care Association chief executive Lou Allen Horwitz said urgent care facilities nationwide were few and far between before the pandemic and workers are now falling ill, forcing locations to close. The group represents more than 4,000 urgent care centers in the US and abroad.
“That’s the shock we can’t absorb,” she said.
CityMD, a chain of urgent care clinics that provides testing in the New York City area, temporarily closed another dozen locations on Wednesday after closing 19 last week. According to company spokesman Joy Lee-Callio, there are about 120 clinics open in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County and New Jersey.
“The spread of Omicron and the demand for testing is pulling our teams too low,” Ms. Lee-Callio said in a statement. “We may need to temporarily close more sites as this boom continues.”
In Ohio, Governor Mike Devine on Monday described how he focused primarily on hospitalizations as opposed to how many people were testing positive for Covid-19, a key metric earlier in the pandemic. More than 5,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ohio on Monday, the most since the surge last winter. The difference now, however, is that officials have control over who else is running the high inpatient count, with more than 90% of patients not being vaccinated, said Mr Devin, a Republican.
“We are seeing the power of vaccines to keep people out of hospital,” he said.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he expects data on new infections to be inaccurate because many people will not report home test results to officials. “The key metric will be your hospitalization rate,” he said. “There’s no gray area there.”
In France, a record high of nearly 180,000 daily infections were reported on Tuesday, but hospitalization rates remained well below those in earlier outbreaks, compared with more than 7,000 in the spring in intensive care units. reached 3,400 people. About 77% of the population is now fully vaccinated, helping to reduce the number of people seeking emergency care and the number of deaths.
A similar pattern is underway in England, which reported nearly 117,000 new infections on Tuesday. The latest hospitalization figures showed there were just over 9,500 people in hospital, far lower than the more than 34,000 figures seen in January.
Health experts have cited high vaccination rates and apparently minor illness caused by the Omicron version as explanations for the relatively low hospitalization levels, which prompted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take social-distancing measures. And has assured to back down from ordering the implementation of the shutdown. in other parts of Europe.
Research conducted in South Africa and the UK shows that Omicron, while more transmitted, causes a milder form of the disease in vaccinated people than previous strains such as Delta. Infection with the new variant offers protection against deltas, a new study from a South African laboratory suggests, focusing on the economic disruption caused by the latest wave of the pandemic—though researchers caution that other types Pre-infection and vaccination may also have contributed to increased protection from Delta.
To help avoid staff shortages in essential areas, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises that infected people who are asymptomatic can leave isolation after five days and when around other people for the next five days. must wear a mask; People who have been vaccinated and have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask for 10 days and try to get tested five days after exposure.
Some public health experts have criticized the CDC for shortening the isolation period for infected people and not requiring that they take a test before returning to work or other daily activities.
Dr. Valensky said, “Let me be clear that we stand on the shoulders of two years of science, two years of understanding transmissibility.” “People are most contagious one to two days before they develop symptoms and two to three days after. After five days, the risk of ongoing transmission is substantially reduced.”
Infection from the Omicron version led to staff absenteeism causing thousands of flights to be canceled over the Christmas weekend, while officials in the US and elsewhere have expressed concerns about how the quarantine is affecting hospital staffing levels.
New York City, meanwhile, will send children back to public schools on Monday while increasing testing capacity and making it easier for children who are exposed to stay in school, Mayor, governor and incoming Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday. Said to
Cities and states are going to provide some three million rapid-test kits, which will be distributed to students and staff who have shared a classroom with a positive case. Students who test negative and have no symptoms will be able to stay in school. Officials said they plan to double the amount of routine testing of students in schools to track potential outbreaks and expand eligibility to include vaccinated students as well as staff .
In Canada, officials in the province of Quebec said they had no choice but to allow some Covid-positive key workers to work, to prevent staff shortages from disrupting their health sector. “Omicron’s infection is so rapid that large numbers of personnel have to be withdrawn, and this threatens network capacity,” the province’s health minister, Christian Dubey, told a news briefing. “We have decided that, under certain conditions, positive employees will be able to continue to work according to the list of priority and risk management.”
Quebec reported 12,800 new infections on Monday, the highest daily figure for any region in Canada during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first detected, there are signs that hospitalizations are on the way, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Average daily hospital admissions in Gauteng province, which also includes Johannesburg, fell by more than 20% in the two weeks to December 25 from two weeks earlier. On a weekly basis, average daily admissions were down about 40%, with other provinces also reporting declines.
In China, the northern city of Xian imposed a seventh-day lockdown on Wednesday following a spate of Covid-19 infections. City officials said no cases of Omicron had been detected in the city so far.
—Kimberly S. Johnson contributed to this article.