US hospitals prepare for a possible January Omicron surge | Coronavirus – After the world

A wave of new omicron cases begins to surge in America and could peak as early as January, the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) warned as states prepare for congested hospitals. The US has exceeded 800,000 deaths, including 1 in 100 Americans over the age of 65.

The Omicron variant accounted for almost 3% of Covid cases in the US on Saturday – up from just 0.4% the week before, so Data from the CDC. It is expected that the variant will continue to increase rapidly based on the experience of other countries and could be dominant within weeks.

“I suspect these numbers will skyrocket dramatically in the next few weeks,” said Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University and Bellevue Hospital told reporters on Wednesday. She expects an Omicron wave to peak in late January and then to decline again sometime in February.

In a meeting with state health officials on Tuesday, the CDC demonstrated two Scenarios, based on models of how the variant could drive infections in the next few weeks and months. Omicron and Delta cases could peak as early as January, or a smaller spike in Omicron could occur in the spring.

It is unclear which variant, Delta or Omicron, will dominate or coexist in the next few months, said Gounder. Regardless of this, “we expect an increase in hospital admissions, an increase in deaths and an increase in the burden on the health system” over the next few months.

The U.S. was already in the grip of a delta wave that began before the Thanksgiving holiday, and officials fear travel and gatherings over holidays like Christmas and New Years could explode what was already a tense situation.

Schools in the United States are seeing an increase in cases, and some closing prematurely or restricting personal activities. In New York, Cornell University reported 903 cases in college students this week – many of them cases of the Omicron variant in fully vaccinated people. School closed early and went virtual.

In several states, hospitals are on the verge of congestion. In Michigan, intensive care medics now volunteer in intensive care units, a doctor Reports.

“Health systems need to have a plan for the likely increase in hospital admissions in the coming weeks,” said Gounder. “What is the workforce planning, especially over the holidays, when employees want to take their own time off?” This can include delaying election procedures to reallocate staff and working with agencies to bring in travel nurses and specialists if necessary, she said .

Public health officials should step up testing and surveillance across the country, she said.

A portion of the American Rescue Plan’s funds can be used state and local to purchase rapid tests, as Massachusetts and Colorado have already done. With Omicron, frequent testing might be more important than with previous variants, Gounder said.

“Omicron has an even shorter incubation time of two to three days. If you want a reasonable chance of catching most of these infections and being able to do something about them, you really need to test every day. “

Between 15 and 30% of all positive tests should be sequenced to understand which variants are spreading across the country, Gounder said. “We’ve increased the test volume dramatically, but we’re not where we need to be, and it’s still a bit patchy across the country.” Wastewater monitoring can also be a “really useful tool for keeping up with the times what is coming and how fast ”.

Joe Biden’s National Plan to Combat Omicron expressly excludes restrictions like orders for stay at home and most states have seen their local Health powers severely restricted during the pandemic, making it harder to take immediate action to slow the spread of the virus.

Further increasing vaccinations, including starting doses and booster vaccinations, will also be important to combat the current and current waves. This requires a concerted campaign to educate the public about why it is important, for example, to vaccinate newly authorized children.

Improving ventilation and air filtration is also important, as is wearing quality masks, Gounder said. “People know about masks. However, you may not know that the KN-95s and KF-94s would be the mask of choice. How do you get it? How do you make sure that it is the right variety? “

It’s too early to say whether Omicron is more or less lethal than previous variants. “Virulence really depends on the age of the person we’re talking about as well as other demographics, but age is probably the most important thing,” said Gounder. “According to the first data from South Africa, a large part of it was in young, relatively healthy people of college student age.”

However, the available evidence suggests that the variant is more communicable and immune-vasive, making infection more likely in those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from previous seizures with the virus. For example, in the New York and New Jersey health zones, Omicron is present 13% of the time.

A new study on previous variants found that 40% of people who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 are asymptomatic. Younger people are more likely to have no symptoms, 60% of people under 20 never develop any symptoms – but they can still pass the virus on.

Almost two years after the coronavirus outbreak, people are tired – from the virus, staying home, unexpectedly closing schools, and being canceled from elective surgery in hospitals. But Gounder cautioned against complacency as cases rise and health systems collapse.

“It’s exhausting,” she said. For “those of us who are at the forefront, be it health care or public health, this is what we will look to for decades to come. That is our new normal – that is our life in the truest sense of the word. “

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