Covid deaths in America begin to slow – just 7% in the past week – despite stark projections
The Omicron variant is finally showing signs of decline in the US. New daily deaths, the key measure of the pandemic that often lags behind cases, have stabilized over the past week. On average, 1,717 Americans die from the virus every day, just a seven percent increase over the past seven days. This is despite a stark projection revealed this week by the White House that up to 300,000 people will die from the virus in the next two months.
The number of cases in the US is beginning to decline, another sign that the peak has been reached. The country registered just 1.06 million new cases on Tuesday, despite having three days of backlogs since the holiday weekend. By comparison, the country registered 1.36 million cases on Monday, January 10, despite being only two days behind on reporting that day.
Last week at this time, the country registered 751,313 cases a day, compared with 727,771 as if it were Tuesday morning — a three percent drop week-on-week. In the past two weeks – generally the standard when calculating Covid case change – the number of cases has increased by 28 percent, compared to an average of 565,042 cases on Jan. 4.
It looks like the US is finally in the midst of the peak that experts and officials have been forecasting for weeks. Like what was seen in the UK, South Africa and other countries, the Omicron wave quickly ran out and now appears to be faltering. Deaths often lag behind new cases, and it is likely that this figure will also decrease over time.
Despite what appears to be the peak now, some officials are still making grim predictions about the future. At a briefing on Tuesday, White House officials were expected to cite the virus between 58,000 and 305,000 Americans between now and mid-March. To top that forecast, the US would need to average about 5,000 deaths per day over the next two months — a figure that would break records of about 3,200 deaths per day at this time last year.
The projection seems bizarre and unrelated to the current state of the pandemic in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data last week estimating that the Omicron variant is 91 percent less lethal than the Delta strain that dominated the second half of 2021, from data revealed by the agency last week. , also shows that 99.5 percent of Covid cases in the US are the Omicron variant – with Delta making up about 0.3 percent of the cases.
dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, even blamed the rare occurrence of Delta variant for the recent increase in Covid deaths from the US last week. If the variant is responsible for much of the deaths in the country – and its prevalence is shrinking – then reaching the top of the projection would require a major shift in the nature of the pandemic in the coming weeks.
Covid cases are now declining in seven US states and the District of Columbia in the past two weeks. No U.S. state also records a two-week increase in cases of more than 300 percent, with cases only doubling in 21 states during that period. Last week, cases increased across the country, with only a few states not registering a 100 percent change in cases over two weeks.
The US is often a few weeks behind the UK, and the country has now recorded a daily decline in hospital admissions for 13 days in a row. Case counts have also fallen 22 percent in the past two weeks, with the country registering 94,432 new cases on Tuesday.
The situation in Britain is so rosy right now that there are rumors that Prime Minister Boris Johnson could drop all Covid restrictions as early as March.
South Africa, the first country to experience a strong surge as a result of the variant, has also seen cases decline rapidly in recent weeks after peaking in late December. The country has an average of 4,300 cases per day, much lower than the 23,000 average reached last month.
dr. Scott Gottlieb (pictured), former FDA director, said on Tuesday he doesn’t expect Covid to make another big shift beyond Omicron, and the virus’ endemic stage could be just around the corner
Some experts hope that this recent decline in the number of cases will spell the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the virus could reach an endemic phase sometime this year.
“I think the base case is that this is the end of the pandemic phase of this virus,” said Scott Gottlieb, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and current board member at Pfizer. CNBC is the Squawk Box on Tuesday.
He said the nature of the virus has continued to “drift,” with the virus developing slowly over time and appearing as different variants. Gottlieb said unless the virus makes a dramatic shift — as it did from Delta to Omicron — it should be able to be contained.
The Omicron strain is the mutated version of Covid discovered to date, with more than 50 mutations, including dozens on the spike protein. The mutations allow it to be quickly transmitted around the world and bypass the protections of the existing vaccines.
Omicron also appears to be the mildest strain to date, with the variant’s death toll still remaining lower than for the Delta variant, despite causing four times as many daily cases at its peak.
The rampant spread of Omicron in the US and around the world has largely wiped out Delta and dampened the danger of the virus in general, as the milder variant has managed to overtake all its more dangerous predecessors.
dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warns that Omicron being the last variant of the pandemic is no guarantee. Earlier this week, he warned that a variant of the virus that can evade natural immunity from previous infection could emerge in the future, dwindling hopes of entering the endemic virus stage.
‘I hope that’s the case. But that would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that evades the immune response of the previous variant,” Fauci said at a virtual event on Davos Agenda this week.
While Omicron now appears to be pulling back and showing itself less of a threat, the federal government appears only now to be responding to this new threat. On Tuesday, the White House launched a website for Americans to order free Covid tests at home. However, the tests will not arrive for days and many who live in apartments or shared living arrangements have reported difficulties accessing the tests. Also, only four tests per household are available, meaning some families won’t get enough to make ends meet.
The White House has also announced plans to distribute 400 million N95 masks to US pharmacies nationwide by the end of the week. Early data shows that N95 and KN95 masks — often considered the most protective of masks — are needed to prevent the spread of the highly mutated strain.
Last week, President Joe Biden sent 1,000 troops to hospitals in six states to help increase hospital admissions. According to official data from the Department of Health and Human Services, 80 percent of U.S. hospital beds are currently occupied. Official data lists 156,894 Americans hospitalized with Covid every day, although the figure is misleading. Many people who come to the hospital to be treated for other conditions test positive while in attendance and are added to the total as a result.