Omicron is inundating a health-care system that was already buckling under the cumulative toll of every previous surge. When a health-care system crumbles, this is what it looks like. Much of what’s wrong happens invisibly. At first, there’s just a lot of waiting. Emergency rooms get so full that “you’ll wait hours and hours, and you may not be able to get surgery when you need it,” Megan Ranney, an emergency physician in Rhode Island, told me. When patients are seen, they might not get the tests they need, because technicians or necessary chemicals are in short supply. Then delay becomes absence. The little acts of compassion that make hospital stays tolerable disappear. Next go the acts of necessity that make stays survivable.
The omicron-driven surge has sent COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocketing across the U.S., reaching a new pandemic high this week with 145,982 patients hospitalized. This exceeds the previous high recorded in January last year, according to data tracked by the Department of Health and Human Services, from more than 5,400 hospitals in the country.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has a reputation for causing mild illness, yet it is fueling a staggering rise in hospitalizations across the United States.
Top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci and the director of the Centers for Disease Control Rochelle Walensky testify on the federal response to omicron.
The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 has surpassed last winter’s peak, underscoring the severity of the threat the virus continues to pose as the extremely contagious Omicron variant tears through the United States.
The Omicron variant has laid bare the need to live with a disease that throws up an ever-changing set of challenges.
West Virginia: West Virginia Shatters 7-Day Record For Positive COVID Cases – Local News
West Virginia shattered a seven-day record for positive coronavirus cases for the second straight week while hospitalizations continue to climb in 2022, according to health figures released Monday.
New Jersey: ‘Omicron tsunami’: 2 pediatric deaths as NJ COVID hospitalizations surge – Local News
The central European country of 10.7 million expects the Omicron wave to culminate in late January, with about 50,000 daily cases detected, but that may not be a complete picture because of the expected strain on testing capacity, the government and independent experts have said.
The state of Virginia hit another grim milestone Monday, with more than 3,600 people currently hospitalized for coronavirus – a new record peak of the pandemic. The previous record was 3,300, set on Jan. 7, 2022. That’s according to data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.
Czech Republic: Omicron takes over as Czech Republic’s dominant coronavirus variant – Reuters
The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus has become the dominant strain in the Czech Republic, the country’s National Institute of Public Health (SZU) said on Monday.
Although much of our approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has changed over the past two years, masks remain one of the best ways to protect yourself and others against infection. But now that the highly contagious Omicron is officially the dominant variant in the US, it is crucial that you wear the right one. That’s why epidemiologists recommend you ditch your bandana or leopard-print cloth mask and upgrade to an N95, KN95, or KF94.
If you’re vaccinated, boosted, and wearing an N95, you’re protected—no matter what others are doing. Earlier in the pandemic, this would have terrified me because, as the 2020-era mantra went, “my mask protects you, and your mask protects me.” In the Sunshine State, though, “your mask” is often nonexistent. But some researchers now think that catchphrase needs an update. Though universal masking is still safest, my mask protects me too. And wearing a good-quality mask while vaccinated and boosted (which I am) protects me pretty darn well, regardless of what everyone else is doing.
The US Army’s COVID vaccine has high hopes to fight all current and future coronaviruses. There’s a new COVID-19 vaccine and surprise, it’s not from Pfizer, Moderna or any pharmaceutical company. The US Army has announced early results for a vaccine developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research that includes defense against the now dominant omicron variant of COVID-19 — a strain causing breakthrough infections in people who have received two vaccine shots or more.
Pfizer Inc. is developing a hybrid vaccine that combines its original shot with a formulation that shields against the highly transmissible omicron variant, the drug giant’s top executive said. While research continues, Pfizer will evaluate the new hybrid formulation against an omicron-specific shot, and determine which is best suited to move forward by March, Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference on Monday. Pfizer will be ready in March to approach U.S. regulators for clearance of the modified vaccine and bring it to market, and it has already begun production, Bourla said.
The reports from coronavirus patients are disconcerting. Only a few hours before, they were enjoying a cup of pungent coffee or the fragrance of flowers in a garden. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, those smells disappeared.
The staggering number of infections among the vaccinated is changing Americans’ pandemic mindset.When Delta swept across the United States last year, the extremely transmissible and deadlier variant threw us into pandemic limbo. The virus remained a danger mostly to unvaccinated people, but they largely wanted to move on. Vaccinated people also largely wanted to move on. The virus did not want to move on. So we got stuck in a deadly rut, and more Americans died of COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020. Now Omicron is sweeping across state after state—even highly vaccinated ones—and new cases are shooting up and up. The virus is still deadliest to the unvaccinated, but the sheer number of mostly mild infections in the vaccinated is shocking us out of that post-Delta stasis. To deal with this extremely transmissible but now milder variant, we are in the middle of a COVID reset.
Official Reporting for January 11, 2022
World Health Organization
Weekly Epi Update December 28th (latest release)
New Cases: 1,736,233
Confirmed Cases: 305,914,601
Confirmed Cases: 310,788,411
Total cases: 60,240,751 (+363,060 New Cases)
Total deaths: 835,302 (+404 New Deaths)
Science and Tech
People with higher levels of T cells from common cold coronaviruses are less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2.
A new study, published in Nature Communications and led by Imperial College London researchers, provides the first evidence of a protective role for these T cells. While previous studies have shown that T cells induced by other coronaviruses can recognise SARS-CoV-2, the new study examines for the first time how the presence of these T cells at the time of SARS-CoV-2 exposure influences whether someone becomes infected.
Psychological and Sociological Impact
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the couple, who live in the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, began to reassess. Both had switched to remote work, their nanny share was suspended, and the social network on which they relied had receded. The prospect of giving birth in a hospital during the pandemic also felt daunting; Athanasiades recalled stories of women “delivering solo with masks or being separated from your baby if you were positive.”
Cross-reactive memory T cells associate with protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in COVID-19 contacts – Nature
Induction of robust cellular and humoral immunity against SARS-CoV-2 after a third dose of BNT162b2 vaccine in previously unresponsive older adults – Nature
A National Strategy for COVID-19Testing, Surveillance, and Mitigation Strategies – JAMA
Misinformation, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories
The added demand for testing and the higher prevalence of breakthrough cases have created an “opportune moment” to exploit.
Some of the most widely trafficked misinformation about COVID-19 is finding fewer believers, a study suggests. A survey in November 2021 by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that 74% of 1800 U.S. adults correctly identified as false a statement that COVID-19 vaccines change people’s DNA; two-thirds said a claim the vaccines cause infertility was probably or definitely false. For both, that’s less than in earlier polls by the university’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, and the researchers think accurate media reporting and statements by health authorities may explain the increases. The changes are welcome because the false statements have helped dissuade some people from receiving the vaccines, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the center’s director.
Coping with COVID
If you’re trapped in COVID isolation right now, you’re making muffins. If that’s literally true, good for you, and I can recommend these. But I’m talking metaphorically. Right now, the infection you’re nursing, and the contagious risk it carries, is—hear me out—raw batter in an oven. You really, really don’t want to remove it too soon.