COVID-19 related hospitalizations made a sharp rise in the last month, as the holiday season gets into full swing and a new threat reaches America in the form of the Omicron variant.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50,000 Americans are in the hospital with the virus every day, a jump from the 40,000 figure being recorded three weeks ago.
The recent uptick in hospitalizations comes as cases rise around much of the country as well, and the nation prepares for what might be another post-holiday season Covid surge.
A new threat has emerged for the nation as well, as the first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, which could be the most infectious strain yet and potentially vaccine evasive, was sequenced in California on Wednesday.
Hospitalizations in the U.S. have jumped nearly 20% over the past three weeks and the number may continue growing as the holiday season hits full swing and the Omicron variant first finds its way into the country. Pictured: The CDC’s daily hospitalization data since the August 2020
The Omicron variant was first detected in the U.S. on Wednesday, when a person who recently traveled from South Africa and tested positive in San Francisco was discovered to have it
The CDC reports that more than 47,000 Americans are in the hospital every day on average due to complications caused by COVID-19, with around 54,000 currently hospitalized.
On November 10, according to official data, around 40,000 Americans were hospitalized because of the virus – a jump of 17 percent in only three weeks.
During this time, cases and deaths in the United States have slowly trended upwards, though recent gaps in reporting caused by the Thanksgiving holiday make an accurate picture of the last week impossible to gather.
According to most recent data, the U.S. is averaging around 80,000 new Covid cases every day and 900 deaths per day, though they are likely undercounts.
The recent uptick in Covid hospitalizations is not a surprise, and some health experts believe it might get worse as the holiday season continues.
Last year, the holiday season preceded the worst Covid surge to date, and the nation was averaging more than 250,000 cases per day at one point in early January.
While widespread adoption of the vaccines should make sure it does not get to that point this winter – with the CDC reporting that 70 percent of Americans have received at least one shot and 60 percent are fully vaccinated – a jump in cases is likely to occur.
The Omicron variant has arrived in the U.S. as well, posing a risk to all Americans now, even the vaccinated.
The mutant virus strain, first detected in South Africa last week but potentially originated in either Botswana or somewhere in Europe, is the more mutated variant discovered yet.
It has 50 mutations, including more than 30 on the spike protein, causing many experts to fear it could evade vaccine protection.
Early data on Omicron from South Africa is promising, with cases of the variant found to be relatively mild compared to those of other strains. Pictured: A man in Joplin, Missouri, receives treatment at a hospital on August 3
Some drug manufacturers have warned that their products may not be as effective against Omicron as it was other strains like Delta.
BioNTech chief Dr Ugar Sahin said Tuesday that his company’s vaccine – a joint effort with Pfizer – can prevent hospitalization from Covid, but may not be as effective preventing infection from Omicron as it was other variants.
Regeneron, makers of an FDA approved monoclonal antibody drug used to treat Covid, also said its drug may not be as effective against the new strain.
Experts warn people not to panic, though, as little is known yet about the strain, or how dangerous it is, and early data from South Africa shows that cases of the strain are relatively minor compared to others.
It has been suggested by some experts that more data about the variant, and how dangerous it is, may be available in the coming weeks.
In the meanwhile, the first case of the virus was sequenced Wednesday in San Francisco, California.
A vaccinated person who had recently returned from a trip to South Africa on November 22 tested positive for the virus on November 29.
The federal government has taken drastic action to prevent the variant from spread across America, starting by banning travel into the country from seven south African nations starting Monday.
The CDC has demanded U.S. airliners to give them the names of all people who have entered the country from eight African nations considered to be at risk from the variant.
President Biden has also considered forcing all international travelers into the country to quarantine for seven days, no matter vaccine or testing status.
In total, 371 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in 24 countries worldwide.