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It is not yet clear whether Omicron is a milder variant. But its rapid spread is sure to overwhelm hospitals, experts say

By Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Research is still early on the virulence of Coronavirus variant Omicron — but what is very clear, according to experts, is that it is poised to spread rapidly across the United States and potentially overwhelm an American health care system.

CDC Director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said the variant is expected to become a “superior strain” in the coming weeks.

And after nearly two years of a pandemic that has caused more than 800,000 people died in the US and overcrowded hospitals, the omens are not favorable for the next few months, according to experts.

“Even if (Omicron) were less virulent than previous strains, if we had half a million cases a day or more, we would flood our hospitals – even if the hospitalization rate is relatively low, ,” said CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at the George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences. “When you have that kind of denominator, our hospitals will be completely submerged like in some parts of the country,” he said.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said it was too early to say that Omicron would cause milder illness.

“It’s clear that Omicron is an extremely contagious variant, it doubles every two to four days,” says Collins. CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Collins said people can limit the consequences of this variant with a vaccine, especially with rocket boosters.

Data from two weeks of cases in South Africa suggest that Omicron has a milder severity. The CDC last week said it had reviewed 43 cases, and most of them had mild symptoms. Most were vaccinated, with about a third of the total group getting a booster.

However, UK epidemiologists said this week they had found no evidence that Omicron was causing milder disease there, although the Imperial College London team also suggested know not much data yet.

“We still don’t really know – and there’s some controversy about it – whether Omicron causes the same serious illness or if it’s a slightly milder form of the disease,” says Collins.

With a more contagious variant, even if it were milder, it could still send more people to the hospital.

“The problem, of course, is if this is so infectious – and we could see hundreds of thousands of cases a day, maybe even a million cases a day from Omicron – even if it’s less severe. a little more, you’ll be a lot of people in the hospital and our hospitals have really stretched with Delta, especially in the northern part of the country,” Collins said.

Overall, the US on Friday averaged 121,707 new Covid-19 cases per day, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The data showed that 14 states had at least 10% increase in cases in the past week compared to the previous week.

Hospitals are already feeling the impact

About 68,900 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data from United States Department of Health and Human Services. More than 20% of all ICU beds in use have Covid-19 patients, the data shows.

California health officials said Friday they have seen the number of people hospitalized begin to trend upward, underscoring the need for immunizations and booster vaccines. In New York, officials say they are seeing the highest hospitalization rate they have ever recorded in months, with Governor Kathy Hochul noting that staff shortages will lead to restrictions latent new.

On Thursday, New York state had its highest number of new cases in a single day at 21,027, according to data released Friday.

Dr. Marc Gorelick, head of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, said the facility is struggling to cope with the numbers.

“When you’re on the cusp of a spike where you’re already at 90%, 95% capacity, additional Covid patients… preventable comes what pushes the system to the brink. And that’s what we’re seeing here in Minnesota,” Gorelick told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Friday.

Things got so bad that hospital leaders in Minnesota came up with a full-page newspaper advertisement this week to say they have been overwhelmed by the pandemic.

“It feels like you’re drinking from a fire hydrant with no way to control that flow,” says Dr. John Hick, emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minnesota, told reporters on Tuesday. “I’ve been practicing in the emergency department for 25 years, and every shift I’m doing these days feels like the worst case of my career.”

In Oregon, officials forecast a grim early 2022.

“We can expect an uptick in hospitalizations in Oregon by mid-January, with infections,” said Dr Peter Graven, a data scientist at Oregon Health and Science University. Infections begin earlier than that. “Combined with its high transmissibility, we expect Omicron to generate a massive increase in the number of Oregonians who will become very ill and potentially require hospitalization.”

Restrictions are returning quickly in some states

The United States has fully immunized just over 61% of its total population, with about 29% receiving a booster dose, according to Latest CDC data.

And as Omicron spread, some officials moved to reinstate the restrictions.

In Maryland, Prince George County Public Schools will transition to distance learning beginning December 20 through January 18 due to “a marked increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the school system ( theirs),” according to a statement Friday from the district’s CEO. Monica Goldson.

The University of Maryland has canceled winter entrance ceremonies, noting that all social gatherings on campus where mask wearing cannot be strictly enforced should be followed. The final exam will be taken in person, but students and faculty will be required to wear a KN95 mask provided by the university.

Michigan State University and New York’s Hofstra University both said Friday that students and staff will be required to have a booster shot at the start of the spring semester.

In Hawaii, a ceremony scheduled to celebrate the end of the state’s Joint National Guard Task Force on Covid-19 was canceled, and the governor’s office said the task force was being deployed. reconstituted by Omicron.

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CNN’s Maggie Fox, Deidre McPhillips, Amy Simonson, Leslie Holland, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Laura Studley, Taylor Romine, Kristina Sgueglia, Artemis Moshtaghian and Andy Rose contributed to this report.

https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/18/its-not-clear-yet-if-omicron-is-a-milder-variant-but-its-rapid-spread-is-certain-to-overwhelm-hospitals-experts-say/ It is not yet clear whether Omicron is a milder variant. But its rapid spread is sure to overwhelm hospitals, experts say

DUSTIN JONES

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