© Reuters. A person takes a coronavirus illness (COVID-19) check at pop-up testing web site in New York City, U.S., December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
By Joseph Ax and Barbara Goldberg
(Reuters) -Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, the United States is confronting one other darkish winter, with the red-hot Omicron variant threatening to worsen an already harmful surge of instances.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have jumped 45% over the past month, and confirmed instances have elevated 40% to a weeklong common of 123,000 new U.S. infections a day, based on a Reuters tally.
Pfizer Inc (NYSE:), one of many chief vaccine makers, on Friday predicted the pandemic would final till 2024 and stated a lower-dose model of its vaccine for youngsters ages 2 to 4 generated a weaker-than-expected immune response, which could delay authorization.
The National Football League rescheduled three weekend video games after a number of groups had been onerous hit by outbreaks.
The National Hockey League added one other sport to its latest checklist of postponements, heightening doubts concerning the league’s plan to ship the world’s high gamers to the Beijing Olympics in February.
In New York City, Radio City Music Hall introduced it has canceled all remaining dates of the Rockettes’ annual Christmas Spectacular “attributable to growing challenges from the pandemic,” after staging greater than 100 exhibits over the previous seven weeks.
The Michael Jackson musical “MJ” on Broadway canceled performances by way of Dec. 27, becoming a member of different Broadway productions which have known as off exhibits after forged and crew members examined constructive.
The Omicron variant seems to be way more transmissible than earlier iterations of the virus, and extra agile in evading immune defenses, based on early research.
Public well being officers say it’s prone to develop into the dominant variant within the nation, following fast-moving spreads in nations corresponding to South Africa and the United Kingdom, and could pressure hospitals nonetheless struggling to comprise this summer season’s Delta variant surge.
“GET BOOSTED NOW. Tidal wave of Omicron seemingly coming to a hospital close to you quickly,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), posted on Twitter (NYSE:).
Preliminary information in South Africa suggests Omicron results in milder sickness than the Delta variant, which continues to be driving a lot of the present wave of infections. But a British examine launched on Friday discovered no distinction in severity between the 2 variants.
Either approach, Omicron’s extraordinary degree of infectiousness means it could trigger many further deaths, the highest U.S. infectious illness knowledgeable, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated on Friday.
“When you’ve a bigger variety of individuals getting contaminated, the full quantity of hospitalizations goes to be extra. That’s simply basic math,” Fauci advised CNBC.
Fauci additionally stated officers are discussing whether or not to redefine what it means to be “totally vaccinated” to incorporate booster photographs.
PULLING THE PLUG?
The newest surge is creating one more spherical of disruptions to day by day life, although widespread lockdowns of workplaces and social gatherings haven’t been put in place.
A federal appeals courtroom on Friday reinstated a nationwide vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandate for big companies – an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule that covers 80 million American staff.
Some Americans have reconsidered vacation plans. Winifred Donoghue, a New York City promoting author, canceled a Jan. 8 disco occasion at her household’s trip dwelling in Highland Lakes, New Jersey, that was meant to be a joint celebration of her sixtieth birthday and the brand new 12 months.
“Two weeks in the past, everybody was boosted. Then the infections went up exponentially,” she stated. “By January, who’s going to really feel protected? I simply pulled the plug on it.”
Eric Hrubant, the chief govt of CIRE Travel, stated he hadn’t but seen a wave of cancellations, as he did in August when the Delta variant swept the nation. But fearful purchasers have inundated the company with calls about new COVID-19 protocols, corresponding to necessary journey quarantines.
“People aren’t panicking,” he stated. “People are making educated choices.”
Several states have hit alarming ranges of instances and hospitalizations. The U.S. states reporting the very best seven-day common of infections had been New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, based on a Reuters tally.
In Ohio, exhausted hospital staff can be getting some assist beginning on Monday from 1,050 National Guard troops – together with 150 nurses, emergency medical technicians and others with medical coaching, Governor Mike DeWine stated on Friday.
The CDC launched a brand new “test-to-stay” technique on Friday that enables unvaccinated youngsters to stay in class even when they’re uncovered to the virus.
The protocol is meant to switch automated quarantines, which have required tens of hundreds of scholars to overlook faculty days this fall.