The World Health Organization on Thursday stressed the continued chatter that the ultratransmissible Omicron coronavirus is “mild”, noting that the variant actually causes a “tsunami of cases” that is “overwhelming healthcare systems around the world”.
“While Omicron appears to be less severe than Delta – particularly among those vaccinated – this does not mean it should be classified as ‘mild’,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a press briefing Thursday, “Like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people and it’s killing people.”
The warning comes as the US is still experiencing a vertical increase in cases and hospitalizations from the rapidly spreading variant. The week ending January 1 was estimated to account for the omicron 95 percent of all cases In the US, according to the latest analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The delta version, which was making up more than 99 percent of US cases as recently as the week ending December 4, is now back in only 5 percent of cases.
With Omicron’s rapid rise to dominance comes a huge wave of affairs. The US reported more than 700,000 new cases on Wednesday after adding more than 1 million on Monday. The seven-day average for new daily cases is more than 585,000, up 247 percent from two weeks ago.
Hospitalizations in the US are also increasing rapidly, despite frequent reports that a small proportion of omicron cases lead to serious illness and hospitalization. In addition, reports from hospitals in the US, UK and South Africa suggest that people who end up in hospital with Omicron have better performance, require less supplemental oxygen, less intensive care and ventilation. But that doesn’t mean people across the board are being spared from the worst of COVID-19 cases.
“We Shouldn’t Be Satisfied”
Right now in the US, the daily average number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is up to 110,334, up 58 percent from two weeks ago. And hospitalizations are still rising.
There is concern about increasing hospitalizations, especially in children. over 4,000 children are currently in hospital with COVID-19, an all-time high in the pandemic, according to tracking by The Washington Post. The current number of children hospitalized is almost double what it was two weeks ago, when fewer than 2,000 were hospitalised. Many doctors and health experts have reported seeing higher levels of COVID-related croup and bronchiolitis in children.
In An interview on CBS Sunday face the nationScott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said that Omicron causes more disease in the upper airways rather than deep in the lungs where severe disease can occur. It’s “very young kids—kids—who have trouble with upper airway infections, and you’re actually seeing more croup-like infections and bronchiolitis in New York City among kids.”
At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the accumulated evidence detecting less severe disease in the omicron wave. Although his tone was far less terrifying than that of Dr. Tedros, he added a note of caution about Omicron’s danger.
“We shouldn’t be complacent,” said Dr. Fauci. “Omicron’s increased transmissibility … may be overridden by the sheer volume of the number of cases.” Those cases “may be of lesser severity but still put a strain on our hospital system, because a certain proportion of a large number of cases, no matter what, are going to be serious.”