Is Omicron slowing?
Researchers have been trying to predict when Omicron surge cases will peak since its inception. Although most estimates place it sometime in the middle of this month, some calculations appear to be 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, New York Governor, said there were signs the New York City rate of new patients was slowing down. The state is still far from reaching its goals, with more procedures being limited in hospitals and cases on the rise elsewhere in the state.
“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 stated that Washington, D.C. might be even further along than New York City. 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 U.S. places are in an entirely new 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.”
As the wave surges across the country, it also seems like it is acting on a delay. In terms of case rate, the Western half seems to be a week or so behind the Eastern.
“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.
Deaths are also spiking sharply in some of the first cities hit by Omicron — not as fast as case rates, but fast enough to warn of more devastation to come.
“We’re a ways away from having a good sense of where the death curve ends up,” Mitch said. “Unfortunately, it looks like it’s likely to continue heading up. But where the top is, we just don’t know.”
China’s tough lockdowns
A third Chinese city — Anyang, with a population of 5.5 million — was locked down because of a coronavirus outbreak. Yesterday’s notice indicated that officials would be conducting mass testing in the entire city.
Chinese residents are already in lockdown in the cities of Xi’an and Yuzhou, bringing the number of people confined to their homes to about 20 million. China continues to rely on a zero Covid policy more than two years after the pandemic. This policy aims to eradicate the virus rather than manage it.
The Coronavirus Pandemic – Key Facts to Know
Alexandra Stevenson, a colleague of mine, provided an update on lockdowns and how people react to them. She has covered the lockdown in Xi’an, which has become the longest in the country since the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan.
What’s been the reaction to the lockdown in Xi’an?
The zero-Covid approach to quarantines, border closures, and lockdowns has enjoyed wide support at home. But when the city of Xi’an went into lockdown on Dec. 22, the strict rules prevented the city’s 13 million people from buying groceries and getting food delivered — prompting panic and a flurry of complaints online.
Simmering anger turned to outrage after a pregnant woman lost her baby outside a hospital that denied her entry because she couldn’t prove she was Covid-free. People began to question the wider zero-Covid policy in an unusual way. Both on Chinese social media and in some of our interviews, people said they felt as though the government didn’t care about death and suffering if it wasn’t Covid related.
What was the most striking thing about this story while you were reporting it?
I was struck at how similar the expressions and fears of recent weeks were to those of the early days of the pandemic. One woman told us that she was afraid to go to work and had stopped taking the bus when Covid cases first emerged in Xi’an. After returning home from public transport, she would immediately take off her clothes and wash them.
It was also quite shocking to see the cruel and rigid nature of those who were responsible for virus control. We were told by the father of a boy aged 8 with leukemia that he fought with hospital officials at multiple hospitals to allow his son to continue chemotherapy. Until senior officials changed the policy, no one wanted help.
What’s next for China’s zero-Covid policy?
The government response to the fallout from Xi’an’s lockdown has been swift. Officials have been sacked, hospitals have apologized and the vice premier in charge of China’s Covid response expressed “deep remorse” and blamed what she described as “sloppiness in prevention and control efforts.” The question now is whether the lessons learned will prompt much change.
Here’s how the lockdowns are Beijing Olympics: Planning complicationsIt is now less than a full month away.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
I am a driver for the longest-running taxi service in town. We operate 24/7/365 and have continued to do so even during the pandemic. Bright yellow taxis outnumbered all other vehicles in lockdown early on. I wore paper masks for many months until they started to irritate my lower face. That’s when I switched to cloth. I live in a town that wants to act as if Covid doesn’t exist. Except for the very old and the sick who wear masks, almost no one in town has them. Riders are often either deniers or extremely misinformed. Attempts to get riders to agree to my requests failed in the beginning. I ventilate the vehicle the best I can even when it’s cold, keep my mask on and hope for the best.
— Raymond Hough, Springfield, Mo.
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Source: NY Times