Seven-day average of cases exceeded 267,000 on Tuesday, beating its January 2021 record of 251,232
Last modified on Thu 30 Dec 2021 12.23 EST
The United States has punched through its record for daily coronavirus cases, as the Omicron variant has surpassed Delta in distribution across much of the country amid a massive surge.
The seven-day average of US cases exceeded 267,000 on Tuesday, beating its January 2021 record of 251,232, according to a New York Times database. The fast-moving Omicron variant now accounts for 59% of new infections, up from 23% a week earlier.
Hospitalizations, too, are rising, though not to the extent of previous surges. Around 71,000 people were being treated as of Monday, fewer than during the peak of the Delta variant, when more than 100,000 people were hospitalized.
On Monday, New York had the highest number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 with 5,772 patients, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California and Texas. Deaths, too, are increasing, with the daily average of 1,243, less than third of their January 2021 peak.
The surge comes as the CDC controversially cut the number of days that infected Americans should remain isolated to five days from 10, and as health authorities report a disturbing rise in pediatric hospitalizations.
The CDC said that after isolation, asymptomatic people should wear a mask around others for another five days.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the new recommendations to reduced the isolation period, “balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses”.
However, unlike January 2021, an estimated 62% of Americans are now vaccinated and in many cases boosted. The CDC announced Tuesday that more than 1.5m shots had been administered in the previous 24 hours.
However, Omicron’s surge has caused disruptions in US economy again. The variant has worsened a labor shortage, caused thousands of flight cancelations, and caused some businesses to once again shut their doors. More pressure, too, has been placed on the stressed US healthcare system.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has placed its emphasis on greater access to testing and in promoting booster shots to the vaccinated and convincing millions of unvaccinated Americans to accept the shot.
The CDC reported that as of December 14, roughly 85% of adults ages 18 and over in the United States had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but 15% remained unvaccinated.
Demand for testing has in some regions caused pharmacies to run short of self-test kits as manufacturers rush to produce and distribute any of the eight approved by the FDA.
The increases, in the US and other countries, have prompted the World Health Organization to warn of a “tsunami of cases” around the world.
In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant was adding to the existing circulation of the Delta strain.
“This will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers and health systems on the brink of collapse, and again disrupting lives and livelihoods,” Tedros said, on the second anniversary of the pandemic’s emergence.
Despite studies that show that the Omicron variant produces less severe outcomes than previous variants, Tedros added that it would still test the world’s healthcare systems.
“There is this narrative going on which is: it’s milder or less severe,” Tedros said. “But we’re undermining the other side, at the same time it could be dangerous, because the high transmissibility could increase hospitalisations and deaths.”