Omicron surge puts pressure on US hospitals

Americans should not expect the Omicron variant to peak nationwide in the coming days, the US surgeon general warned Sunday, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise and put more pressure on hospitals.

“The next few weeks will be difficult,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The seven-day average of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 hospitalizations is at the highest level on record, with around 155,958 reported on Sunday, after surpassing old records last week, according to data from the US Department of Health and the United States. Social services. The seven-day average of newly reported cases also reached nearly 808,000 a day on Saturday, the first time it topped 800,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The latest data is inflated by an increase in Texas cases reported at the same time after the state’s cleanup and added to its case total for 2020. At the same time, increased home testing that often isn’t captured in state data reports added to an incomplete picture of the true level of infections, health and data experts said.

Covid-19 cases reported daily in the United States

Note: For 50 States and DC, US Territories and Cruises. Last update

Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering

Still, public health officials say they are cautiously optimistic after Covid-19 cases began to slow in some of the early US hotspots this week, following a trend that emerged in South Africa and the UK, where Omicron struck earlier.

Dr Murthy has warned in television appearances that the pandemic is not over. “The whole country is not moving at the same pace,” he said on CNN. “The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country.”

He said the federal government was sending resources to hospitals struggling with staffing shortages and encouraging Americans to get vaccinated and boosted. “One thing we’re learning during this wave is that our vaccines still work very well to keep people out of hospital and to save their lives,” he said.

Dr Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on ‘Fox News Sunday’ that Covid hospitalizations have reached or will soon arrive in New York, New Jersey and parts of New England and Florida. But he said the rest of the country has yet to see the worst of Omicron’s push.

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s rules on Covid-19 vaccines or testing for large private employers, dealing a blow to one of the administration’s key tools to boost vaccination rates . The court, however, authorized the administration to impose a vaccination mandate on more than 10 million health care workers whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

Scientists are using automation, real-time analysis and pooling data from around the world to quickly identify and understand new coronavirus variants before the next one spreads widely. Photo illustration: Sharon Shi

Dr Jha welcomed the Biden administration’s focus on increasing Covid testing supplies, but said public health messaging from the federal government had not kept up with changes in the virus. “It definitely makes it harder for people to know what to do,” he said.

A new CBS News/YouGov survey showed Mr Biden’s rating on handling the pandemic is at its lowest since taking office.

Only 49% of Americans think the president is doing a good job of handling the virus outbreak, down from 67% in March last year. In the survey, just over two-thirds of those polled who said he was not doing a good job said they resented it because government information about the virus was confusing. The survey of 2,094 American adults between January 12 and 14 had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 points.

On Sunday, Mr. Murthy defended the administration’s response to rapid Covid-19 test shortages, telling ABC’s “This Week” that even though the Biden administration had increased supply over the past year, the Omicron wave “created an extraordinary increase in demand”. leading to a shortage.

The Biden administration has announced plans to purchase and distribute 1 billion rapid Covid-19 tests. Last week, the administration announced that starting Jan. 19, people will be able to order the first of the tests. People will be able to order up to four tests per household on that will ship within seven to 12 days.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that his state sees early signs the virus could peak there, but criticized the feds for buying test kits for which his state had already contracted, rather than focusing on increasing production of new kits.

“We’re trying to get as much help as we can from the federal government, but frankly they’re falling short,” Hogan said.

Other GOP lawmakers said Sunday that the Biden administration had failed to provide enough testing, a key weakness in the president’s response to the pandemic. “The administration has lost its focus,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The rapid spread of Omicron in communities means many people are presenting to hospitals with other health conditions before testing positive for Covid-19. The New York Department of Health, which has broken down data on this effect at the state level, advised against considering such infections as accidental or harmless, as it may not be immediately obvious that Covid-19 was an aggravating factor for some patients.

The seven-day average of reported deaths from Covid-19 is 1,776 per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Recent data disruptions have made it difficult to determine the trend in deaths, although the average has risen by more than 600 since before Thanksgiving, when the holidays caused reporting delays. The average of reported Covid-19 deaths briefly exceeded 2,100 in September, during the surge caused by the Delta variant.

Los Angeles County said more than 28,000 residents have died from Covid-19-related cases since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.


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The county’s public health unit recorded 66 coronavirus-related deaths Saturday, the highest daily number since the start of last April and a four-fold increase from a week earlier. Most Covid-19-related deaths over the past week have been in people infected after December 20, when the new Omicron variant was circulating widely.

The public health office said the recent increase in hospitalizations and “the extraordinarily high number of new cases reflect worrying rates of community transmission.”

In France, lawmakers passed a bill backed by President Emmanuel Macron that bars unvaccinated people from entering restaurants, cafes and many other public places, rather than allowing them to enter by showing a negative test.

The vote came after some 54,000 people took part in demonstrations in French cities on Saturday against the tightening of restrictions imposed on those who refuse a vaccination against Covid-19, according to the Ministry of the Interior. That was about half the number of people across the country as last week, when protesters raged over Mr Macron’s recent comment that “the unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off”.

A demonstration in Paris on Saturday against the planned restrictions.


Geoffroy van der Hasselt/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

In the Netherlands, the government on Saturday relaxed some Covid-19 restrictions imposed in November when the Delta variant threatened to overwhelm hospitals. Although the number of cases linked to the Omicron variant is increasing, hospitalizations are decreasing.

Dutch restrictions have been relaxed for schools, sporting, artistic and cultural activities, non-essential businesses and contact industries such as hairdressers. The rules for using face masks have been tightened.

In the UK, the government has said booster shots will be made available to 16 and 17 year olds in England as it seeks to provide protection against the Omicron variant. Before the spread of Omicron, the state-funded National Health Service in England limited booster shots to people aged 18 and over.

Write to Chad Day at [email protected], Eliza Collins at [email protected] and Jon Kamp at [email protected]

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