Omicron cases appear to peak in US, but deaths continue to rise

CHICAGO — New coronavirus cases have begun to fall nationwide, signaling that the Omicron-fueled spike that has infected tens of million...


CHICAGO — New coronavirus cases have begun to fall nationwide, signaling that the Omicron-fueled spike that has infected tens of millions of Americans, filled hospitals and shattered records has finally begun to recede.

More states have passed a peak in new cases in recent days, as glimmers of progress have spread from a handful of eastern cities to much of the country. Through Friday, the country was averaging around 720,000 new cases a day, down from around 807,000 last week. New coronavirus hospital admissions have leveled off.

Even though promising data points are emerging, the threat has by no means passed. The United States continues to identify far more infections per day than in any previous surge, and some states in the West, South and Great Plains are still seeing steep increases. Many hospitals are full. And the deaths continue to rise, with more than 2,100 announced almost every day.

But after a month of extraordinary rates of case growth, long lines at testing centers and military deployments to bolster understaffed intensive care units, the drop in the number of new cases offered a feeling of relief to virus-weary Americans, especially in the Northeast and parts of the Upper Midwest, where the trends were most encouraging. After another round of masks or retreats, some wondered what life might be like if conditions continued to improve.

“Especially after this wave, the level of exhaustion in New York City cannot be overstated, and the level of numbness is quite significant,” said Mark D. Levine, Borough President of Manhattan. He added: “What we need to do now is not pretend Covid is gone, but manage it to the point that it doesn’t disrupt our lives.”

In states where new cases have started to fall, the declines so far have been quick and steep, largely mirroring the rapid rises that began in late December. These patterns resemble those seen in South Africa, the country whose scientists warned the world about Omicron, and the first place to document a major rise in the variant. New case in South Africa have fallen 85% from their peak in mid-December, to around 3,500 cases per day from a high of 23,400, although they remain above the levels seen in the weeks before the installation of Omicron.

The scientists said it remains an open question whether Omicron marks the coronavirus’ transition from a pandemic to a less threatening endemic virus, or whether future surges or variants will usher in a new round of turmoil.

“It’s important for people not to be like, ‘Oh, it’s over,'” said Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan. We are not there yet.

In New York, cases are falling sharply even as deaths continue to rise, with more deaths being announced each day than at any time since the early months of the pandemic. About Cleveland and in washington d.c., less than half the number of new infections announced each day compared to early January. And in Illinois and Marylandhospitalizations and cases began to decline.

“We are very encouraged by our substantial improvement in the situation,” Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland said Thursday, “but the next 10 days to two weeks are really going to be critical.”

More states in more regions continue to show signs of improvement, with Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania among those now reporting several days of sustained decline in cases.

But progress is not yet universal.

Reports of new infections continue to grow in North Dakotawhich has an average of four times more cases per day than at the beginning of January, and in Alabamawhere hospitalizations have roughly doubled in the past two weeks. Utah is averaging about 11 times more cases per day than a month ago, and hospitalizations are at record highs.

“As we’ve seen with Delta and previous surges, it happens in these peaks and waves, where part of the United States is affected and another part is affected afterwards,” said Syra Madad, epidemiologist of the infectious diseases in New York. “We will see that with Omicron. Even with a decline, it comes with a very long tail.

In Kansaswhere daily case rates have risen 50% over the past two weeks, Governor Laura Kelly announced on Friday that Veterans Affairs hospitals would accept patients who are not generally eligible for care there because of other establishments were overloaded.

“We are at an inflection point with the Omicron variant, and the strain on our hospitals is weighing on our healthcare workers and patients – as the virus continues to spread rapidly through our communities,” Ms Kelly said in a statement. .

Still, there is “renewed hope” that the end of the pandemic is in sight, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, noted at a press conference on Thursday.

But for nearly two years of the pandemic, the country celebrated moments of hope before, only to be disappointed by another wave: when the first surge in cases receded, when vaccines were authorized, when a “hot summer vaxseemed to loom on the horizon.

“We have to be very vigilant about what is happening internationally,” said Judith Persichilli, health commissioner at New Jersey, where case rates are dropping rapidly and the temporary morgues erected at the start of the Omicron assault never had to be used. “Everything that happens overseas eventually lands on our shores, and it lands in New York and New Jersey first.”

Some of the initial alarm about Omicron, which was first detected around Thanksgiving and quickly taken by storm across the world, has died down as research has shown the variant has a tendency to cause disease. less severe than previous forms of the virus. Vaccinated people, especially those who received booster shots, are much less likely to have serious consequences, although breakthrough infections are common. Data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that booster injections are 90% effective against hospitalization with Omicron.

Still, more Americans with the virus are hospitalized than at any other time during the pandemic, although deaths have so far remained below peak levels seen a year ago. And public case data doesn’t include many people who test positive in home tests.

Home tests have become hard to come by, although Americans can now also order a limited number of these tests from the Postal service. Private insurers are now required to cover the cost eight tests per person each month.

There has been no return to the stay-at-home orders imposed at the start of the pandemic, although new restrictions have emerged in some places. Some schools and colleges have moved to online instruction, either as a precaution or due to major outbreaks. School closures due to the virus peaked in early January, with millions of children affected by district closures and classroom quarantines. Since then, the disruptions have decreased, according to Burbio, a data tracking company.

Countless Americans have adjusted their routines in recent weeks, avoiding unnecessary outings as cases spike.

“The timing of this in a place like Cleveland has been bad,” said Marc R. Kotora, owner of Gust Gallucci Co., a grocer and catering supplier that typically sees a surge in business during the holidays. “Because of the Omicron variant, we had a lot of cancellations for people who wanted us to help with their parties, and a number of the restaurants we sell closed for a few weeks.”

In Chicago, where a vaccination mandate for indoor dining and some other activities went into effect earlier this month, officials said they may lift that requirement in the coming months if conditions continue to improve. ‘to improve. Cook Countywhich includes Chicago, is averaging about 8,000 cases a day, up from 12,000 earlier in the month.

“Coming June, hopefully we’ll be in a good place,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner. “But could there be another variant? Where could we be? I can’t know for sure.

In New Jersey, where new cases have fallen 60% in the past two weeks, hospitals have resumed more outpatient services and elective surgeries in recent days as viral loads began to ease. Some establishments have also recovered areas that had been set aside to accommodate beds for overflowing Covid patients.

“Everyone has been so resilient,” said Melissa Zak, chief nursing officer at Virtua Memorial and Virtua Willingboro, hospitals in southern New Jersey. “But I’m really worried about how long that resilience will last if it doesn’t continue to drop.”

Still, after two years of watching cases rise and fall, and with scientists warning that the virus will become endemic, some people were careful not to be too optimistic about the latest data.

“Covid-19 seems to be changing rapidly all the time now,” said Ari Glockner, a student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He added: “We don’t know what it will look like in five years, but I’d bet we’ll still deal with it quite consistently.”

Michael Smith and Julie Bosmann reported from Chicago, and Tracey Tuly of New Jersey. The report was provided by Dana Goldstein in New York, Ben Grenaway in Salt Lake City, Daniel McGraw in Cleveland and Donna M. Owens in Baltimore.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Omicron cases appear to peak in US, but deaths continue to rise
Omicron cases appear to peak in US, but deaths continue to rise
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