Dr. Anthony S. Fauci advised Americans to focus more on the danger posed by the Omicron virus and less on the record-breaking number of cases, as hospitals already under pressure from the Delta variant of the Omicron.
The average number of cases reported in the United States over the past week has exceeded 401,200. This is a tripling of the number reported two weeks ago. It was also the first time that the number has surpassed 400,000 according to a New York Times database. However, the new case numbers are slightly lower because fewer states report after the New Year holiday. However, hospitalizations were up 33 percent to 92,300 while deaths fell 4 percent to an average 1,249 per day.
It’s unclear how many hospitalizations are patients infected with Omicron rather than the Delta variant, which scientists believe is significantly more virulent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data, Omicron was responsible for more than 58 per cent of new cases during the week ended Dec. 25, compared with over 41 percent for Delta.
Dr. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, noted on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that many new infections, especially in people who are vaccinated and boosted, result in no symptoms or mild symptoms, making the absolute number of cases less important than it was for previous versions of the virus.
“As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases,” Dr. Fauci said.
This advice is consistent with what epidemiologists have been saying for years. Despite the constant drumbeat of case numbers, the number of positive tests is not a reliable indicator of the spread of the epidemic.
Because the Omicron variant is more contagious than other variants and can evade vaccines, the number of cases has exploded. This has prompted more widespread testing. What’s more, the official numbers are almost certainly an undercount, because many people are testing positive on rapid at-home tests or carrying the virus without any symptoms.
Dr. Fauci explained to Mr. Stephanopoulos that the concern isn’t so much about mild or asymptomatic Omicron infections, but rather the number of people with severe and fatal infections.
“The real bottom line that you want to be concerned about,” he said, “is are we getting protected by the vaccines from severe disease leading to hospitalization?”
Vaccines and boosters seem to provide that protection. The unvaccinated are still at risk.
“I’m still very concerned about the tens of millions of people who are not vaccinated at all because even though many of them are going to get asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic, a fair number of them are going to get severe disease,” Dr. Fauci said.
Even though Omicron is milder than most evidence suggests, a higher Omicron caseload means that there are more health care workers who can’t work because of positive tests and more people who could become sick enough to need medical attention.
“We have got to be careful about that, because, even if you have a less of a percentage of severity, when you have multi-multi-multi-fold more people getting infected, the net amount is you’re still going to get a lot of people that are going to be needing hospitalization,” Dr. Fauci said.
Hospitals across the country are suffering from staff shortages and signs of strain.
“At the moment, the major concern is the effect of Omicron on hospital staffing in conjunction with fatigue and increasing admissions for Covid-19 as well as other things,” said Julio Figueroa, chief of infectious diseases at the Louisiana State School Health Sciences Center.
Hawaii has requested 700 additional Federal Emergency Management Agency health care workers, while some St. Louis hospitals have begun to limit visitor numbers again. Leaders in Illinois urged hospitals to postpone elective procedures and surgeries.
Maryland Hospital Association stated that there were approximately 400,000 hospital patients. surpassed the state’s Covid peak from last winter.
“We believe that the next four to six weeks are really going to be a terrible point in this crisis, and it’s potentially going to be the worst part of the whole two-year fight,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”
Source: NY Times