Today’s News – January 12, 2022
Is Omicron slowing down?
Ever since the Omicron surge began, researchers have been trying to predict when cases might peak. Estimates generally place that event sometime during this month, but some calculations seem to have been too optimistic.
However, a month into the surge, we’re beginning to see some early signs that cases may have begun to plateau in some places and that the Omicron wave may soon start to subside.
“I’m seeing some hopeful signs in the Northeast that suggest that the worst of the case growth is slowing down,” said my colleague Mitch Smith, who tracks the virus for The Times. But he added: “It’s not a well-defined trend yet. It’s a glimmer that it’s slowing down.”
Today, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said that there were signs that the rate of new cases was beginning to plateau in New York City. But with cases still on the rise in the rest of the state, and more hospitals having to limit procedures, the state is still far from turning the corner.
“We’re not at the end,” Hochul said, but she called the numbers “a glimmer of hope in a time when we desperately need that.”
Mitch said there was one place that might even be further along than New York City: Washington, D.C. It was one of the first places to have a huge Omicron surge, and it had “off-the-charts, straight vertical line growth” through last week.
“D.C., though, looks like it may have peaked,” Mitch said. “So that, to me, feels like a new moment of the surge.”
We’ll have to watch to see if the trend continues, and if it’s replicated in other places. Currently, most places in the U.S. are in an entirely different place.
“Most of the country is in the explosive growth phase,” Mitch said. “Cases are rising pretty much everywhere. We’re seeing case levels that are way above anything we’ve ever seen before — every day.”
The wave also seems to be acting on a delay as it surges across the country. The Western half of the country seems to be a week or two behind the Eastern half in terms of case rates.
“We’re continuing to see crazy, several-hundred-percent two-week rates of growth in some of those states,” Mitch said. “And I don’t think we’re nearly as close to a peak in some of those places, just because the heat of their outbreak arrived later than New England and even the urban Midwest.”
While the shape of the case curve may help tell us when virus activity is subsiding, the more important measure of the pandemic’s strength is the hospitalization rate, which has jumped in recent days. Today the number of people in the U.S. hospitalized with Covid-19 exceeded last winter’s peak, underscoring that while Omicron may cause less severe illness, it still poses a serious threat.
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