Omicron could bring the surge in COVID-19 in the US into high gear – archyde

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 have increased 45% in the last month, and cases have increased 40% to a seven-day average of 123,000 new infections per day, according to a Reuters tally.

Pfizer Inc, a leading vaccine maker, said Friday that the pandemic would last through 2024 and said a lower-dose version of its vaccine for children ages 2 to 4 will produce a weaker-than-expected immune response, leading the approval could delay.

The Omicron variant appears to be far more transmissible than previous iterations of the virus, according to early studies, and more agile at bypassing immune defenses.

Public health officials say that after fast-paced spreads in countries like South Africa and the UK, it is likely to become the predominant variant in the country and could weigh on hospitals that are still struggling to contain the surge in the Delta variant this summer.

“GET REINFORCED NOW. The Omicron tidal wave is likely to hit a hospital near you soon, ”wrote Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Twitter.

Preliminary data in South Africa suggests that Omicron results in a milder disease than the Delta variant, which is still powering much of the current wave. However, a British study published on Friday found no difference in severity between the two variants.

In any case, Omicron’s exceptional infectivity means it could cause many additional deaths, said leading U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Friday.

“If more people become infected, the total number of hospital admissions will be higher. It’s just simple math, ”Fauci told CNBC.

Fauci also said officials are debating whether to redefine what it means to be “fully vaccinated” to include booster shots, which early studies suggest will greatly improve protection against severe cases of the Omicron variant. President Joe Biden warned Thursday that unvaccinated Americans would face “serious illness and death” in the coming months.

The recent surge creates yet another round of disruption to daily life, although widespread lockouts have not been put in place. Several states have seen alarming numbers of cases and hospital admissions.

Exhausted Ohio hospital workers in their 22nd month of pandemic response will be deployed to hospitals across the state by 1,050 National Guard soldiers – including 150 nurses, emergency medicine and others with medical training – as of Monday, Mike DeWine said at a news conference Friday .

In New York City, Radio City Music Hall announced that the four performances of the Rockettes’ iconic Christmas show had been canceled on Friday due to “breakthrough COVID-19 cases in production.” Broadway shows this week also canceled performances following outbreaks among vaccinated performers.

Both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association postponed games this week, and the NBA and National Football League have tightened COVID-19 restrictions after dozen of players tested positive.

The CDC released a new “test-to-stay” strategy on Friday that will allow unvaccinated children to stay in school even if exposed to the virus.

The protocol is intended to replace the automatic quarantine, which saw tens of thousands of students miss the school day this fall.

“If exposed children meet certain criteria and continue to test negative, they can stay in school instead of quarantine at home,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters.

Dr. Leana Wen, professor of public health at George Washington University, on Friday praised the change in school policy from test to stay but said implementation would still be challenging, in part due to ongoing test shortages.

“I’m not sure how we can literally implement this test to stay if we don’t even have enough tests for symptomatic people,” she told CNN.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey, and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; additional reporting by Nandita Bose, Carl O’Donnell, Susan Heavey, Caroline Humer, Mrinalika Roy, Leroy Leo, and Frank Pingue; editing by Howard Goller )

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