‘Tis the Season of Alarm Bells? Fuelled by Omicron, Cases Hit Record High in US. A Look at Grim Situation

Global experts are calling the new heavily mutated variant of Coronavirus- Omicron, the biggest threat to global public health. Once again, countries are recording the biggest one-day increase in fresh Coronavirus cases as Omicron is becoming the dominant variant after the Delta variant wreaked havoc in early 2021. On Friday, the United States reported over 170,000 new coronavirus cases, the biggest increase since September. In the wake of rapidly rising numbers, US President Joe Biden warned of a “winter of severe illness and death” for those unvaccinated against Covid-19.

Reportedly, scientists remain uncertain how dangerous the highly mutated Omicron variant is, but early data suggests it can be more resistant to vaccines and is more transmissible than the Delta variant. The World Health Organization said earlier this week that the strain has been reported in 77 countries and has “probably” spread to most nations undetected at a higher rate than any previous variant of the virus.

Biden’s warning about the winter came as he urged Americans who have already had two shots to get boosters. “The only real protection is to get your shot,” he said, with the White House saying the administration did not intend to take specific restrictive measures but would instead focus on vaccination. “The tools that we have, we know are working,” deputy White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said.

What is the current situation in the US?

As panic grips over Omicron, U.S. officials have intensified calls for unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated as soon as possible. The new variant has threatened to wipe out a second holiday season, as the current situation has a distinctly 2020 feel. The New York state reported over 21,000 fresh COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest single-day total for new cases since testing became widely available.

“This is changing so quickly. The numbers are going up exponentially by day,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a Friday appearance on CNN.

The steep rise in infections should be of great concern but it was inevitable, given the quick spread of the newest variant, said Dr. Denis Nash, the executive director of the Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health at the City University of New York.

Statewide, New York averaged 13,257 positive tests per day over the seven-day period that ended Thursday. That is up 71% from two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Coronavirus hospitalizations continue to climb across the United States amid staffing shortage complaints. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 67,306 are hospitalized with Covid-19, 40% higher than a month ago, CNN reported. Beds in intensive care units are 78% full, and one in five of those patients are Covid-19 patients.

On Thursday, US death toll from Covid-19 passed 800,000, a once-unimaginable figure seen as doubly tragic given that more than 200,000 of those lives were lost after vaccines became available last spring. This is the highest reported toll of any country across the globe. Reportedly, the US accounts for approximately 4% of the world’s population but about 15% of the 5.3 million known deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak began.

What are experts saying on the sudden surge?

US Health expert, Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN “the cases are going up. We have an average of about 117,000 cases. We have an increase in the percentage of hospitalizations. Deaths are still over a thousand. Then you have, looking over your shoulder, the Omicron variant, which we know, from what’s going on in South Africa and in the UK, is a highly transmissible virus.” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said it is likely the Omicron variant will become the dominant strain, though the US continues to struggle with the Delta variant. Omicron, however, has shown in other countries that “it has an extraordinary ability to transmit efficiently and spread.”

As per a CNN report, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, agreed to Fauci and said, based on what’s happening in the UK, we are almost certainly going to be in for what we’re seeing already, which is an early surge, or I should say an early stage of the surge that is probably going to be informed by Omicron. However, despite the surge amid the vaccinated individuals, Health officials are highlighting the importance for Covid-19 vaccines and boosters. Experts have already stated that there’s “no doubt” vaccinated individuals will be infected by Omicron, Fauci told Blitzer, “if you want to be optimally protected and you’re vaccinated, get boosted.”

Is it 2020 all over again?

As the second holiday season goes for a toss in the US, Friday had a distinctly 2020 feel. Amid a spike in cases, the NFL games were postponed in the US, Rockettes Christmas show was canceled for the season, while a spate of restrictions forced ground travel to a halt and saw travelers lying low, news agency AP reported. The popular holiday program- Radio City Rockettes generally has four shows per day in December at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.

Not only the US, but Denmark has also decided to close theaters, concert halls, amusement parks and museums in response to virus cases, while, in Spain, but friends and classmates also canceled traditional year-end dinners. Scotland and Wales too pledged millions of pounds for businesses hurt in Britain’s latest infection surge.

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