The stunning development demonstrates the increased transmissibility of Omicron, which quickly spread across South Africa and the globe, hitting countries like the U.K. especially hard.
The first case of the variant was identified in San Francisco on December 1 in a woman who had traveled overseas. While early cases were mostly found in travelers, community spread stateside was confirmed in a matter of days.
Over the past week, the variant has shown a near sixfold increase, according to CDC data, up from 12.6% of samples on December 11 to the current 73%, which is for the week ending December 18.
It’s a development that Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted this weekend saying, “When you have a doubling time that’s that short a period, pretty soon that isolate is going to take over.”
In some regions, Omicron’s share of new infections is much higher than 73%. “It’s responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest,” according to the Associated Press. Cases in New York State, in fact, hit an all-time high on Friday and went even higher today.
The sharp increase in cases is likely to cause issues at hospitals. While Omicron cases are thought to generally produce more mild symptoms the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals as patients with complications or preexisting conditions overwhelm capacity.
Asked Sunday whether he expected a record numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as a result of the Omicron variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci responded, “Yes, well, unfortunately, I think that that is going to happen.”
In the U.K., which has been dealing with a surge for longer than the U.S., Prime Minister Boris Johnson today pleaded with citizens to get vaccinated. Concerned about a steep rise in hospitalizations and exactly how far they would rise, Johnson said his government was need keeping “hour-by-hour” tabs on the numbers and did not rule out “taking further action to protect the public.”
We’ve got cases of Omicron surging across the country now and hospitalisations are rising quite steeply in London.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 20, 2021
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