Federal authorities say early data from Omicron suggests less deadly wave

WASHINGTON – Senior federal health officials stressed on Wednesday that data on skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the United States and ...


WASHINGTON – Senior federal health officials stressed on Wednesday that data on skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the United States and other countries reinforced early signs that the highly contagious variant of Omicron was milder and less deadly than previous variants, though it already threatened to overwhelm healthcare systems on the brink of previous surges.

Their comments at a White House press conference reflected a growing urgency on the part of the administration to reassure Americans worried about another winter of isolation as it rushes to respond to the worsening epidemics across the country.

Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that while cases had increased by about 60% over the past week, to about 240,000 per day, admissions to the hospital and deaths had remained “comparatively low”, hinting at a less deadly wave of the virus.

She pointed to an average of 9,000 hospitalizations over seven days, an increase of about 14% from the previous week. The seven-day average of daily deaths stood at about 1,100 per day, she added, a drop of about 7%.

“This could be due to the fact that hospitalizations tend to delay cases by about two weeks,” she said, “but could also be due to the first indications that we have seen in other countries like the ‘South Africa and the UK more mild Omicron disease, especially in the vaccinated and vaccinated.

Dr Anthony S. Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, told the same press conference that “the trend and disparity between cases and hospitalizations strongly suggests that there will be a higher hospitalization-to-case ratio. low when the situation becomes clearer. “

A report released this week at a hospital in South Africa, Dr Fauci said, showed significantly fewer patients needing supplemental oxygen, fewer intensive care admissions and fewer deaths. A study in the UK that looked at patients through December 19 showed a much lower risk of hospitalization with Omicron compared to people infected with the Delta variant, data that a separate Scottish study confirmed, a- he declared.

The most promising data on the spread of Omicron has been tempered by a crush of virus cases in hospitals across the country, where exhausted healthcare workers sought help as mostly unvaccinated patients overwhelm emergencies and intensive care units.

Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said 13,000 members of the National Guard were in 48 states to assist with vaccinations, testing and clinical work. The federal government sent ambulances to states in need, he added, especially to hit New York City hard, where dozens of Federal Emergency Management Agency employees were helping with the effort. Reinforcements had arrived or were heading for Arizona, Wisconsin and Indiana, Zients said.

More federally-run testing sites would open in the coming days, Zients said, including in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. criticism from public health experts that the Biden administration had neglected the country’s test stock prior to Omicron’s arrival in the United States. Demand for testing has exploded this month, forcing manufacturers to scramble to produce and distribute more.

The Food and Drug Administration Wednesday authorized a home test performed by Siemens Healthineers, as part of a new expedited review program, the Department of Health and Human Services said. And the Ministry of Defense won a $ 136.7 million contract to MilliporeSigma, which manufactures a key ingredient in rapid tests. The contract allows a Wisconsin plant “to support more than 83.3 million tests per month,” the department said.

Mr Zients said a contract that would allow the government to provide 500 million rapid tests for free would be finalized by the end of next week. Deliveries from manufacturers were yet to start in January.

Dr Fauci said the mild infection levels suggested the United States should move on to a comfortable life with some controlled spread of the virus. “This is a highly, highly transmissible virus. We know that from the numbers we see, ”he said. “Every individual across this country now sees the high degree of transmissibility around them.”

He said that while it was safe for those vaccinated to get together in small groups with family and friends over New Years weekend, Americans should be careful about hosting traditional celebrations in inside.

“If your plans are to go to a 40 or 50 person New Years party with all the bells and whistles and everyone hugging and wishing each other a happy new year, I would highly recommend that this year we do. not. that, ”he said.

But he said public health policy should gradually reflect more social and financial concerns.

“It becomes much more relevant to the severity of the impact on society. We will never stop counting tests, ”he said. “But we look forward to, as I think everyone sees fit, that at the end of the day when we do have to quote, ‘live’ with something that will not be eradicated and most likely will not be eliminated. , but can in fact be at such a low level of control, that is, control that does not disrupt society, does not disrupt the economy.

The CDC nodded at the idea on Monday when it cut the recommended isolation period in half for many infected Americans, even if they haven’t been tested, a decision criticized by some scientists and public health experts as premature. Dr Walensky said in an interview with The Times on Tuesday that rapid tests were not effective enough to diagnose infectivity in people.

“You don’t necessarily take a test if you don’t know what you’re going to do with the result,” she said. “The expected number of cases we were seeing required us to take action at this time. “

Dr Walensky continued to defend the new recommendations on Wednesday, telling the White House press conference that “the vast majority” of transmission of the virus occurs two days before symptoms and two to three days after. “All that small, persistent amount of transmission afterwards would be prevented by masking,” she said. “We are building on two years of science, two years of understanding transmissibility. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Federal authorities say early data from Omicron suggests less deadly wave
Federal authorities say early data from Omicron suggests less deadly wave
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