Omicron variant now detected in 33 states including ALASKA as the US eclipses 50 million Covid cases
The Omicron strain of COVID now makes up three per cent of all new US infections, the CDC has warned, as case numbers grew to 189 across 33 states, and the White House warned a ‘large wave’ of the strain is approaching.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that around one in 30 new Covid diagnoses are being caused by Omicron, with 97 per cent caused by the Delta strain.
The US only sequences one in five positive PCR tests, with experts warning that the new variant’s foothold here is already far greater than current figures show, with cases now diagnosed as far a field as Alaska.
On Tuesday morning, US Covid diagnoses sat at 50.1 million cases, with deaths close to 799,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Omicron is now the ‘dominant strain’ of Covid in the UK, and is widely-expected to overtake Delta in the US soon too.
On Tuesday, a White House source told Axios: ‘Everything points to a large wave. A large wave is coming. It will be fast. It won’t be as severe, but regrettably, there will be plenty of hospitalizations.’ Officials including Dr Anthony Fauci say they believe Omicron causes less severe symptoms than Delta, but have cautioned that it is still to early to know for sure.
Even if Omicron does turn out to be a less deadly strain, the added infectiousness of Omicron means the number of people taken to hospital with the strain will almost certainly soon creep up.
Preliminary data also suggests that fully-vaccinated Americans are offered little protection from Omicron infection, although a Pfizer booster shot can offer up to 70 percent infection from serious illness. That means even fully-vaccinated Americans are at high risk of a potential infection, amid a fresh push for people to get their booster shots.
Officials around the country are reacting to the prospect of the new variant, trying to get ahead of the variant that is already responsible for massive case surges across Europe and in South Africa, where it was first identified.
The Omicron COVID-19 variant (purple) now accounts for 3% of U.S. Covid cases, up from less than one percent last week. The Delta variant (orange) is still the nation’s dominant strain, accounting for 97% of new cases, per CDC data
As of Monday, only 16 percent of Americans had received their COVID-19 booster shots, with no state having more than 30% of its population boosted
California brought back its mask mandate for all indoor places across the state on Monday, joining New York who did the same last week. In Philadelphia, residents must now show proof of vaccination to enter bars and restaurants, also like New York City.
Senior Biden officials are also sounding the alarm about Omicron. Axios reports that some officials said that ‘everything points to a large wave. A large wave is coming.’
What has officials so scared is the rare nature of this Covid variant. It has 50 mutations, including 30 on the spike protein – the part of the virus the vaccines target. Early studies show that these mutations allow the virus to evade vaccine protection, requiring Americans to get a booster dose to remain protected.
Booster rates in America remain relatively low, though, with only around 16 percent of the population having received the additional shot, and a DailyMail.com analysis on Monday finding that no U.S. state had boosted more than 30 percent of its population.
The world’s first confirmed death caused by the variant was confirmed on Monday in the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is sounding the alarms as well, as the variant quickly takes over his nation and he enacted strict Covid mandates to curb the spread last week.
Meanwhile, other countries like Denmark, South Africa and Norway also have proven to be Omicron hotspots, and struggle with massive surges as well.
All could serve as a harbinger of the next Covid outbreak that will strike the U.S.
There is some positive news, though, as Pfizer announced Tuesday morning that its new oral COVID-19 treatment could reduce hospitalizations and deaths caused by the Omicron variant by 90 percent.
The U.S. is currently averaging around 120,000 cases per day, a massive 49 percent increase over the past two weeks.
On Monday, the country also eclipsed 50,000,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic first began in March 2020.
The marker is reached as the nation also approaches 800,000 confirmed Covid deaths, and will likely eclipse that marker by the end of the week.
Hospitalizations are on the rise as well, with an average as 66,000 Americans receiving treatment every day, a 22 percent increase over the past two weeks.
All of this is even before the Omicron variant has truly landed in the U.S., as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still reports that 97 percent of sequenced cases are of the Delta variant, though Omicron has quickly grown from an insignificant variant in sequencing to making up three percent of cases.
States in the Northeast and the U.S. South have accounted for a large portion of these surges.
Connecticut is the nation’s leader in growth of Covid cases, with new daily cases almost tripling over the past two weeks – up 185 percent.
Maine (138 percent increase over the past two weeks), Rhode Island (96 percent), Delaware (96 percent), New Jersey (94 percent) and Massachusetts (92 percent) are all among the leaders in growth in Covid cases over the past two weeks.
In the south, Mississippi (99 percent), South Carolina (87 percent), North Carolina (86 percent), Virginia (83 percent), Texas (80 percent) and Alabama (79 percent) are also among the leaders.
Some local officials across the country are beginning to act to curb the spread of the virus, and try to prevent Omicron from taking hold in America.
On Monday, California enacted a statewide mask mandate, requiring all residents to wear masks in all indoor public spaces starting on Wednesday.
People will also be required to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative Covid test to attend some major events, like concerts and sports games.
California is following the lead of New York, which enacted an indoor mask mandate for all public places without a vaccine mandate starting Monday.
Philadelphia is another major city taking major steps to curb the spread of the virus, with the city announcing Monday that all restaurants and bars will have to check vaccine status of patrons starting in January.
New York City has had a similar mandate in-place since the summer, with Mayor Bill de Blasio even making it stricter last week, now requiring two doses for people to enter indoor public places, and lowering the minimum age the mandate applies to five years old.
These efforts are part of a larger goal by health officials to kick start America’s vaccine rollout, which stagnated in recent weeks.
Per official CDC data, 72 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 61 percent are fully vaccinated.
Early data shows that might not be enough to protect from the new strain, though.
An Israeli study from earlier this week found that only receiving the first two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does not adequately protect someone against infection from the variant, and the ability of the vaccine to prevent severe infection is diminished as well.
The same study found that booster shots can effectively prevent both infection, and severe symptoms of the virus.
Official data shows that only 16 percent of Americans have received their booster shot at this point, though, leaving much of the nation vulnerable to the new strain.
Andy Slavitt, a former senior Covid adviser to President Biden told CNN on Tuesday that
Booster shots have been a key to the UK’s fight against the budding variant as well.
The UK is the world’s leader in sequenced COVID-19 cases, with more than 4,700 confirmed Omicron cases nationwide – 50 percent increase in cases occurring in only one day.
The National Health Service (NHS) also increased its alert level to four, signaling that officials in the nation are bracing for hospital systems to once again be put under massive stress.
Currently, the country is averaging around 51,000 total Covid cases per day, nearing the January record of 59,000 cases per day.
London, the nation’s capital, has especially been struck by the recent, Omicron fueled, Covid surge.
Health officials fear that the Omicron variant will be the dominant strain in England at some point this week, and the new strain has already been tied to ten hospitalizations and one death – the first death confirmed from the variant which was announced Monday.
Prime Minister Johnson is focusing on the rollout of booster shots in his effort to curb the spread of the variant.
Now in the UK, all Britons aged 18 or older who are at least three months removed from completing their vaccine regimen are eligible for a Covid booster shot.
Additional vaccine sites have been set up around the nation, and the military and a thousands strong volunteer force will work to assist in the rollout of the additional shots.
Some elective surgeries may also be postponed in the near future to help free hospital space for the NHS.
Last week, Johnson also enacted mask mandates, a work from home order and instituted vaccine or negative Covid test checks at some venues in the nation.
Nearly 70 percent of Britons are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday morning, with more than 30 percent of residents having received their booster shot so far.
Denmark has recorded the second highest total of Omicron COVID-19 cases of any nation, with more than 3,400 sequenced as of Tuesday morning.
One of the largest Omicron outbreaks in the world has been tied to a Christmas lunch event in the Viborg region, attended by 150 students on November 27 from two local high schools.
Around 70 cases of the variant have been tied to the event so far.
The country is following the UK in prioritizing the booster shots in an effort to limit the spread of the new variant.
Starting Monday, booster shots will be available to all Danes 40 years or older, hoping to first protect the most vulnerable citizens in the rollout of the shots.
Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen announced new measures to prevent spread of the virus last week, joining the UK.
People who can will now be ordered to work from home, and virtual schooling has been extended as well.
Bars and nightclubs will also have reduced operating hours, being forced to close at midnight now, in an effort to prevent transmission.
Still health officials still fear the variant will continue to spread in the European nation, and the country’s health authorities said Monday they expect Omicron to be the dominant strain in Copenhagen, the nation’s capital and largest city, by the end of the week.
The Nordic nation is approaching 8,000 new cases every day, more than doubling the daily case rate recorded during the previous record surge last winter – when the country peaked at 3,500 new cases per day.
Early data on the Omicron COVID-19 variant shows that people who are only fully vaccinated are still at risk from the strain, but a person can re-establish protection by receiving a booster dose. Only 16% of Americans have received their booster shots according to official data. Pictured: A man in Innsbruck, Austria, receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine on November 8
Fearing a similar outbreak happening within its own borders, Israel restricted travel from both the UK and Denmark on Monday, adding the two European nations to a list of about 50 others.
It is the first country to ban travel from the UK and Denmark due to the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile in the U.S., President Biden banned travel from eight African countries, some of which are not suffering major Covid outbreaks at the moment, but still allows incoming travel from the UK and Denmark.
Norway suffered the first known outbreak of the Omicron variant, when a holiday party held by locally based energy company Scatec was tied to over 100 cases of Covid – with more than a dozen confirmed to be the new strain.
The company traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, in mid-November, before the discovery of the new strain.
At the party it is believed one person, dubbed ‘patient zero’, is at the center of the outbreak, with all cases being tied back to him.
After the party, company employees mingled with others at the restaurant it was being held at, and it is believed that over 50 more people who were not a part of the event contracted the virus then.
In the time since, cases in the nation have surged, reaching an all-time record of over 4,700 per day on Monday.
To control the virus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere announced the country would enter a partial lockdown, banning the serving of alcohol in bars, closing gyms and swimming pools, and other mandates.
A promising sign, though, is that none of the people tied to the Cape Town even suffered severe complications caused by the virus, and no deaths or hospitalizations have been tied to the event.
In South Africa, the nation where the variant was first detected, nearly 20,000 new cases are being recorded every day, and hospitalizations are skyrocketing.
Nationwide, the amount of people admitted to the hospital for Covid has increased ten-fold over the last four weeks, from 562 to more than 5,900 last week.
While officials in the country report that Omicron cases are relatively mild, many people in the Covid plagued nation are still suffering serious enough cases to require the additional care.