Health

COVID Omicron Updates: Variant may be headed for a rapid drop in US

NEW YORK (WABC) – Scientists are seeing signs that the alarming Omicron wave of COVID-19 has peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the United States, at which point cases may begin to decline dramatically.

The reason: The variant has proven to be so contagious that it could actually run out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first discovered in South Africa.

“It will go down as quickly as you go up,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

At the same time, experts warn that much remains uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic may develop. The plateau or ebb in the two countries does not happen everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. Weeks or months of misery still await patients and overburdened hospitals even as the withdrawal fades.

Take a look at cases and hospitalizations in New York City:

Related: What are the symptoms of the COVID omicron variant?

Here are more COVID-19 news headlines today:

No change in school mask state after Nassau County executive order
One week after Nassau County Executive Director Bruce Blackman signed an executive order allowing school boards to decide whether students wear masks in schools, no school district has changed their mask policies.

Blackman said school board members privately told him they felt threatened by Governor Cathy Hochhol and state officials.

When am I contagious if I have Omicron?
When am I contagious if I have Omicron? It’s not yet clear, but some early data suggests that people may become infectious sooner than previous variants – possibly within a day after infection. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people with coronavirus are most contagious in the few days before and after symptoms appear. But that time window may occur earlier with Omicron, according to some outside experts. This is because omicron appears to cause symptoms faster than previous variants — about three days after infection, on average, according to preliminary studies. Based on previous data, this means that people with oomicron can start to become contagious as soon as a day after infection.

3,000 United Airlines employees have tested positive for COVID
United Airlines said it is reducing its flight schedule in hopes of stemming the COVID-related staff shortage that has caused thousands of flight cancellations across the industry. In a new company-wide note, CEO Scott Kirby said the airline is “reducing our schedules in the near term to make sure we have the staff and resources to take care of customers.” Kirby did not specify how much the airline will reduce flights. But the memo added, “Omicron’s price increase has put pressure on our operations, leading to customer disruptions during the busy holiday season.” He thanked the staff for their professionalism in dealing with delays.

CDC says it will update mask “information”
The CDC says it plans to update its mask information “to better reflect the multiple choices available to people and the different levels of protection they offer.” The CDC did not say when its guidance would be updated. Meanwhile, the CDC said in a statement, “Any mask is better than no mask, and we encourage Americans to wear an appropriate mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Since omicron’s arrival, US health experts have urged to upgrade their cloth masks to N95 or KN95 because the new alternative is highly transmissible. But these high-quality masks are expensive and hard to find.

Multiple countries issue emergency declarations
Governors in multiple states are issuing emergency declarations because the omicron variant is depleting vital healthcare resources. The CDC says the variant now accounts for 98% of all new cases, and the new numbers, representing the weekend’s backlog, show the United States hit a record 1.4 million cases in a single day. The CDC has determined that unvaccinated people are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated Americans.

Virginia has issued a 30-day state of emergency to help health care facilities increase family and staff space, while New Jersey and Washington, D.C. are also subject to emergency orders. Maryland, Maine and Massachusetts depend on the National Guard as a record number of COVID patients flood hospitals.

Police: A nurse in Italy caught fake shots and gave up a vaccine
Police in Italy have arrested a nurse on charges of fraudulently administering coronavirus vaccines to at least 45 people so they could obtain a health permit without actually getting the shot. The nurse dumped the vaccines in the trash and bandaged his “patients” so the scam wouldn’t be caught. Police in Ancona, on Italy’s east coast, also placed four alleged accomplices under house arrest, accusing them of finding anti-vaccine agents who were willing to pay for a health permit rather than get the shots. 45 people who allegedly obtained false travel permits are under investigation.

Staying at home or working sick? Omicron poses a dilemma for workers without paid sick leave
As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the country, millions of those whose jobs don’t provide paid sick days are forced to choose between their health and their salaries. While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the start of the pandemic, some of those policies have since been scaled back with the introduction of vaccines, although omicron has been able to evade injections. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure on workers who have to decide whether to show their jobs sick if they can’t afford to stay at home.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “With staff depleted by illness overseas, this means that those on the job have more to do and are more reluctant to call in sick when they are sick in turn.”

Federal officials issue warnings about counterfeit COVID-19 test kits
Cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket, leading to brutally long queues at testing sites and empty shelves in stores where at-home rapid test kits were once available. Now, an additional problem has emerged: The Federal Trade Commission is warning against selling fraudulent online test kits to desperate customers.

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the CDC determined that the unvaccinated are 17% more likely to be hospitalized. This article has been updated to say 17 times more likely.

More COVID-19 coverage

Omicron variant symptoms: What to know even if you’ve been vaccinated
New York City COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Coronavirus

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