Even though the message continues to signal a crisis with the fast-spreading COVID-19 variant called Omicron, the rate of hospitalizations of Americans with COVID-19 has dropped 50% compared to the record highs seen a year ago.
New data indicates that the rate of cases has more than tripled in just a few weeks since Omicron has emerged. Just this week there were more than 1 million new cases diagnosed in a single day. But just 3% of the people with the virus are being admitted to hospitals. This is according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That present rate is less than half of the 6.5% of cases that needed hospitalization one year ago. The average daily case count was approximately 250,000. And deaths from the virus are less than a third of what the data showed in January of last year. Now there are 1,200 deaths per day which is significantly fewer than the record high of 3,400 a day from a year ago, according to the CDC. The Omicron variant right now accounts for every new case of the virus that is spreading across the United States.
In fact, the new strain represented 95.4% of sequenced COVID-19 cases during the week that ended on New Year’s Day.
The previous Delta variant made up only 4.6% of the sequenced cases, the CDC said.
The Omicron variant took over in just a few weeks. It was at the beginning of December that the new variant accounted for less than 1% of sequenced cases. The Delta variant made up 99% of them. But the CDC estimated that by the week ending on Christmas Day, the variant accounted for 58.6% of all new cases.
This fast-moving variant is still being studied and some researchers believe that the Omicron taking over could be good news. There are scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban who have recently conducted a small study on people infected with Omicron. They have focused on those who have been fully vaccinated. These individuals have developed a higher immunity to Delta.
This new research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it involved 15 vaccinated and unvaccinated Omicron patients in South Africa.
“The authors, led by Alex Sigal and Khadija Khan, found that while the neutralization of Omicron increased 14-fold over 14 days after the enrollment, there also was a 4.4-fold increase in the neutralization of the Delta variant,” according to Bloomberg News.
There are a number of other studies that have been collected since the variant started in South Africa just before Thanksgiving. They are based on the little data available to them, but they seem to show that Omicron is far less severe than the Delta variant and it does not go after the lungs as viciously.
In America today, the number of cases is soaring, but the number of deaths is not. Some top scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, are saying that there is a good change Omicron will drop off just as quickly as it appeared.
Dr. Fauci spoke with George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “This Week,” and said, “We first got an inkling of that in South Africa. When one looked at the relationship and the ratio between hospitalizations and cases, it was lower, the duration of hospital stay was lower, the requirements for oxygen were lower. We’re seeing a bit of that, not as pronounced, in the U.K., but certainly that trend.
He also noted that if you are in the United States you should not jump to a positive conclusion too early. But he could not dismiss the large number of cases that have not resulted in hospitalizations, which he admitted might be lagging indicators.