U.S. Sets New Daily Record for COVID-19 Cases as Omicron Spreads Rapidly
The Omicron variant did not stop for the holidays. The U.S. is reporting record cases of COVID-19 positives heading into the new year. Here is the latest on the ongoing pandemic.
The U.S. set a new seven-day average record with over 265,000 cases reported for a period ending on Tuesday. This broke the previous record of about 252,000 daily cases hit last year on January 11.Read More »
According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, there were 76,779 Americans hospitalized with the virus on December 28.
The latest data also suggests that it is highly possible to get re-infected with COVID-19 and its Omicron variant even if you have had a prior infection. According to the Imperial College London, the risk of getting infected with Omicron when compared to Delta is 5.4 times higher.
Medical experts continue to hold on to the hope that illness does not appear to be as severe with the Omicron variant. This is even more true for those who have been vaccinated and boosted.
Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines Shortened
The big news of the week was the announcement that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its isolation guidance. The agency now recommends that those who test positive isolate for five days if they are not showing symptoms. This is to be followed by an additional five days of wearing a mask when around others. The change updates the previous guidance of 10 days of isolation.
According to CDC Director Dr. Rachelle Walensky, the change in guidance was precipitated by emerging science that indicates that the majority of transmission happens during the early stages of the illness. Up to 90% of the transmission occurs in the one to two days prior to symptom onset and in the two days following.
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In addition to updating the guidance for positive individuals, the CDC also changed the recommendations for those who have been identified as a close contact. The CDC is now recommending a quarantine of five days with another five days of mask usage for those who were exposed and are either unvaccinated or have seen over six months pass since their second mRNA vaccine.
Those who are boosted or have had less than six months since their vaccine do not need to quarantine if exposed. However, the CDC recommends that these individuals wear a mask for 10 days following the exposure.
Guidance for New Year’s Eve
As the virus continues its rampage across the country, many people are wondering if they should alter their New Year’s Eve plans to account for the escalating spread of the Omicron variant. According to the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Americans should opt for smaller gatherings within groups that are fully vaccinated and boosted. Fauci warned against gathering in large groups. Instead, Fauci said Americans should ring in the new year in small groups with at-home celebrations.
At-Home Tests in Short Supply
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You are not alone if you have had a difficult time securing at-home test kits in recent days. A run on this type of testing option has left most stores and online retailers sold out of the precious commodity.
White House Covid-19 Response Director Jeff Zients said that help is on the way during a television interview on Wednesday. Zients said that the Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense have accelerated the contract to purchase 500 million of these tests to distribute to Americans for use at home.
According to Zients, the White House is planning to set up a website for Americans to order these tests for free. More details about how to order these tests will be released in the coming days.
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The Biden administration has come under fire over the last few weeks for being caught off guard with the latest surge, particularly not having the testing scaled up to deal with the increasing demand.
Schools Pivot to Deal with Virus Surge
American students have been under a bit of a reprieve as schools had already been off for the holiday break. With most schools set to return in the next week or two, many districts have changed their policies to hopefully limit the level of community transmission. Some school districts have decided to stay virtual for the first week or two back after the break.
Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Wednesday that all public school students and staff will need to show proof of a negative test before returning to the classroom on January 5. Bowser said that the district will make decisions about individual classrooms at the school level in regards to if online learning will be utilized. This decision will be based on the percentage of staff and students under quarantine as well as the level of teacher availability.
In addition to some school districts changing course, a growing number of colleges and universities have also decided to move classes online or to delay the start of the semester in response to the increase in cases. Be sure to check with your school before returning to campus so that you understand the proper protocols and recommendations.
Global Spread of Omicron
The U.S. is not the only country that is being slammed with the Omicron variant. On Wednesday, Italy announced the addition of at least 98,030 new infections over a 24-hour time period. This number set a new daily record for the country.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), there were 39,923 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the UK on Wednesday. This accounts for over 90% of all COVID-19 cases recorded in the country. The UK recorded 183,037 new cases of COVID-19, including all of those that were not sequenced for a particular variant. The promising news is that the death rate continues to remain low with this wave of infections.
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