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Coronavirus US

When is the US expected to hit its Omicron case peak?

It is hoped the wave will peak in January, but records are being smashed every day, as January 3 saw more than a million infections in one day.

A board displays the status of flights to and from Logan International Airport in Boston.
Brian SnyderReuters

The newest covid-19 wave, Omicron, is sweeping the US with never-before-seen infection rates. However, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of new infection numbers. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, predicts the Omicron wave will peak nationally in mid-January, but some areas will still see large growth in infections.

“By the second week of January, we’re going to see the national declines, but there will be some areas struggling for sure,” Rubin said.

Some of this data is based upon modelling from South Africa, which was the first country to have a significant Omicron presence. However, the average age of the African nation is significantly lower than in the US, meaning infections are not as severe.

While this seems a mere two weeks away, that is not to say cases are already falling. Quite the contrary, in fact, as January 3 saw a stunning 1.062 million new cases reported, the highest daily number of any country during the entire pandemic. The new variant is many times more infectious than previous strains of the virus, so much so that people who are vaccinated are likely to contract the virus. However, chances of a severe case for those people remain low.

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Cases are higher than ever

1 million cases is also being seen as an underestimate, as there is more widespread use of at-home testing kits. These positives are not reported in the total number, meaning many more thousands will be testing positive.

Columbia epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman estimates the number of infections could be up to five times the official count. Given that people remain infected for many days, that translates to many millions of active infections across the United States.

“We’re talking somewhere up to maybe 10 million people,” Shaman said. “Maybe not all of them are contagious yet. Crazy numbers. Crazy, crazy numbers.”

What is being done about it?

During President Biden's address on the Omicron variant in December, he mentioned that his administration would use the Defense Production Act to procure half a billion tests. Most experts, however, do not think this is enough.

Furthermore, the CDC has recommended reducing the amount of time people need to isolate, from ten days down to five. It has been admitted that this was changed to prevent millions of workers having to isolate and the wheels of the country to stop turning, rather than to protect people's lives.

“The reason is that with the sheer volume of new cases that we are having and that we expect to continue with omicron, one of the things we want to be careful of is that we don’t have so many people out [of work],” Dr Anthony Fauci, the US' top infectious disease expert, told CNN’s Jim Acosta. “I mean, obviously if you have symptoms you should [be out], but if you are asymptomatic and you are infected we want to get people back to jobs — particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly.”


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