New Covid-19 cases increased by more than twentyfold in New York City in December. It has slowed down in the last few days.
The number of cases in New Jersey and Maryland has dropped slightly this week. The number of cases in major cities is also decreasing.
The amount of Covid virus found in Boston’s water has fallen by around 40 percent since its peak in Jan. 1.
“We really try not to ever make any predictions about this virus, because it always throws us for a loop,” Dr. Shira Doron, an epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, told GBH News. “But at least the wastewater is suggesting a steep decline, and so we hope that means cases will decline steeply as well, and then hospitalizations and deaths will follow.”
As Doron suggested, it’s too early to be confident that the Omicron wave has peaked even in areas with encouraging data — which tend to be the places where Omicron first arrived in the U.S. This scenario is possible, but it is not impossible. “Looks like we may be cresting over that peak,” Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York, said this week.
(Find cases in your county here.
Similar to the Omicron experience in places where Omicron arrived earlier in the U.S., there is a sudden increase in cases that lasts about a month followed by a rapid decline. New daily cases in South Africa have dropped by around 70% from their December peak. The chart showing South Africa’s recent trend looks like a skinny, upside-down letter V.
In Britain, where pandemic trends have frequently been a few weeks ahead of those in the U.S., cases peaked just after New Year’s and have since fallen somewhat:
Previous versions of Covid, such as the Delta, had more frequent up-and down cycles. Often, cases rose for two months after an outbreak started before falling.
Scientists don’t fully understand Covid’s cycles, but the explanation probably involves some combination of the virus’s biological qualities and the size of a typical human social network. Two months later, the earlier variants of Covid began to die down, much like a forest fire.
Omicron is contagious and spreads faster. It may spread faster, which could mean it reaches more people who are most at risk. Omicron’s brief boom-and-bust cycle is now “a familiar pattern,” Joseph Allen of Harvard’s School of Public Health says.
Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the The Associated Press that he believed the true number of U.S. cases — including those not included in any official tally — has already peaked, probably last week. “It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” he predicted.
A bumpy descent
The current emergency is not ending, to be clear. Omicron arrived in the Northeast early so cases are only peaking there. The majority of cases are still on the rise in many parts of the country.
Some hospitals are already overwhelmed, and hospitalization trends often trailcaseload trends by around a week. Death trends tend to be slower by a couple of weeks. “It’s going to be a tough two or three weeks,” Mokdad said. The U.S. appears to be on the verge of severe illness, especially among the unvaccinated.
(Related to: The C.E.O. Scott Kirby, United Airlines, said that while 3,000 employees had tested positive, zero employees who were vaccinated were admitted to hospital. That’s a big change. Before the company implemented a vaccine mandate, Covid was killing an average of one United employee per week.
Still, the beginning of the end of the Omicron wave — if it turns out to be real — would be very good news.
This would indicate that a milder form of Covid had become the dominant one, but it was not causing an increase in cases or overwhelming hospitals. It would mean that Omicron infection had given rise to an additional immunity in tens of millions of Americans. This would be a significant step towards a future where Covid is not a pandemic but an endemic disease, like the flu.
Lauren Ancel Meyers runs a Covid analysis at the University of Texas and said that Omicron may be seen as a turning-point. “At some point, we’ll be able to draw a line — and Omicron may be that point — where we transition from what is a catastrophic global threat to something that’s a much more manageable disease,” she told The A.P.
Covid could surprise again, as we should all have known by now. Meyers suggested that another possibility is the possibility of a dangerous new version emerging this spring. This outcome is both unlikely and possible, which is always a difficult combination to comprehend.
THE LATEST NEWS
Other Big Stories
Future of fandomPro sports leagues are turning to video games and TikTok.
Cheese: Is gruyère still gruyère if it doesn’t come from Gruyères? A U.S. judge has ruled that yes.
Bad habits: With a younger audience, cigarettes are making a comeback.
Notes: He texts her every year to tell her he loves her. Every time it feels different.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
The classic A Times: Learn to love knitting.
Lives Well Ronnie Spector was the lead singer of the Ronettes, who gave a bad-girl edge to pop music’s girl-group sound in the 1960s. She died at age 78.
ARTS AND IDEA
Where’s that sweater from?
Imagine if labels on clothes could be read in the same way as labels on food. It’s starting to happen: Transparency and traceability are reaching the tags on the rack.
The idea dates back to at most 2019, when an English knitwear company introduced a tag on their sweaters that allowed customers to see where its Merino Wool had come from. Dana Thomas writes in The Times. A Nashville-based sustainable brand added something similar to a nutrition label to show how its shoes are made.
Here’s how it works, and why it’s worth knowing where your clothes come from. — Claire Moses, a Morning writer
PLAY, WATCH and EAT
What to Cook
Source: NY Times