When Will the Omicron Variant Peak?

The Delta-driven surge of coronavirus cases in the United States peaked at 2,092 on September 22. Now, the Omicron variant is dominant in the US and is spreading faster than any other variant to date. This highly transmissible variant is causing an almost vertical growth of cases in several cities, with numbers that double approximately every two or three days. Officials expect it to break records and the US could reach one million cases a day, even before the end of the year. While Omicron's speed now speaks for itself, scientists are still quick to understand its threat.

Preliminary studies conducted in Scotland and England suggest that infections with this variant may be milder, but scientists warn that Omicron infections should be observed in the US. Even if these early results are maintained and Omicron causes mostly mild illnesses, the sheer magnitude of the cases it causes could increase hospitalizations at a time when many medical centers are already full. Hospitals across the country are about to overflow, their care rooms are filled with patients who have been sick with Delta or who have delayed treatments for so long during the pandemic that they now need intensive care. Approximately one in 10 hospital service areas, spread across the United States, has had their intensive care units capacity greater than 90 percent in recent weeks.

Hospital administrators say their nurses and doctors are overwhelmed and exhausted, and that staff shortages are making matters worse. Public health experts are concerned that millions of Americans who haven't been vaccinated or haven't yet received the vaccine are now vulnerable as Omicron spreads. The variant is believed to evade immunity from both vaccination and previous infection, but preliminary research suggests that a booster provides the best protection against infection. In addition, vaccination, even without the booster, is expected to maintain strong protection against hospitalization and death.

The Biden administration re-emphasized this week the importance of getting vaccinated or boosting itself as the most powerful tool against Omicron. Still, researchers say there is significant uncertainty about what Omicron will provide in the coming weeks. New cases of Covid-19 surpassed 242,000 in the US Wednesday, according to data compiled by NBC News, raising the seven-day average to 167,683 days higher than the peak of the delta variant in early September. The Food and Drug Administration approved Merck's antiviral pill to treat Covid for emergency use on Thursday, giving the US another weapon in the fight against the virus.

Data from Johns Hopkins University reveals that the 7-day average of COVID-19 related deaths reached nearly 2,200 in January. The most recent CDC report confirms that the Omicron variant is significantly less serious than previous variants. However, its infectiousness continues to affect health systems due to the volume of people affected. Experts say that the greatest number of people with Omicron infections affects health care in a way that affects everyone who needs care.

According to Heinz, people who remain symptom-free are unlikely to bother getting tested. Heinz also expressed concern that we might be preparing for a truly dangerous variant to emerge. Experts say that the timing of using the Omicron variant has contributed to the increase in the volume of cases, as people spend more time meeting indoors, where the risk of infection is higher. They also say that the reduction in the availability of tests means that the United States is likely to continue to underestimate cases and that the only way out of the pandemic remains vaccination.

Early data indicate that people receiving booster doses or hybrid immunity will produce stronger antibodies against the Omicron variant.

Lloyd Pintello
Lloyd Pintello

Incurable pizza nerd. Coffee lover. Wannabe web enthusiast. General music lover. Infuriatingly humble sushi evangelist.