The Star Democrat

Omicron sweeps across nation, now 73% of US COVID-19 cases

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NEW YORK (AP) — Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronaviru­s in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week.

In much of the country, omicron’s prevalence is even higher. It’s responsibl­e for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest.

Since the end of June, the delta variant has been the main version causing U.S. infections. As recently as the end of November, more than 99.5% of coronaviru­ses were delta, according to CDC data.

Scientists in Africa first sounded the alarm about omicron less than a month

ago and on Nov. 26 the World Health Organizati­on designated it as a “variant of concern.” The mutant has since shown up in about 90 countries.

Much about the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccinatio­n still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

“All of us have a date with omicron,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you’re going to interact with society, if you’re going to have any type of life, omicron will be something you encounter, and the best way you can encounter this is to be fully vaccinated.”

Adalja said he was not surprised by the CDC data showing omicron overtaking delta in the U.S., given what was seen in South Africa, the U.K. and Denmark. He predicted spread over the holidays, including breakthrou­gh infections among the vaccinated and serious complicati­ons among the unvaccinat­ed that could stress hospitals already burdened by delta.

 ?? AP PHOTO ?? Becky Gonzalez, left, and her long time friend, Mary Lou Samora, a 71-year-old COVID-19 patient, put their palms together after they shared some encouragin­g words at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
AP PHOTO Becky Gonzalez, left, and her long time friend, Mary Lou Samora, a 71-year-old COVID-19 patient, put their palms together after they shared some encouragin­g words at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.

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