Covid cases top 50 million in US, Delta variant still dominant, Omicron spreading
The US has now reported over 50 million Covid-19 infections, according to a Reuters report, and the death toll has surpassed 800,000. The Delta variant is still dominant, accounting for 99% of infections, but cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant continue to be reported. Infections have been steadily increasing over the last 2 weeks, following a 2-month period of declining case numbers.
Reuters reports that colder states such as Michigan, Vermont, and New Hampshire, are experiencing the biggest surges in infections per capita. Hospitalisations are also rising, with the number of Covid patients receiving hospital treatment up 20% since the Thanksgiving holiday in late November. Covid-related deaths are also up, having increased by 4.6% in the last month.
The newly-arrived Omicron variant has been found in nearly half of US states, but for now, the Delta variant remains dominant, accounting for 99% of cases. John Moore from Weill Cornell Medical College says that for Omicron to become a problem, it needs to take over as the dominant variant.
“If we suddenly start to see 10% of new infections being Omicron, and then it goes up the next week to 20%, that would tell us that we’re in a replacement wave such as we saw when Delta replaced Alpha.”
The manufacturers of the Pfizer vaccine say that 2 doses are not as effective against the Omicron variant compared to earlier strains, but 3 doses can restore immunity. According to the Reuters report, around 14% of Americans have now received a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. 10 million of those have done so since Thanksgiving, driven by concerns over the Omicron variant.
Xavier Becerra, US Secretary of Health and Human Services, says that anti-viral treatments from companies such as Merck and Pfizer “could be a lifesaver”. However, he adds that Americans must still make vaccination the main priority in the fight against Covid-19.
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