Omicron will lead to 'viral blizzard' of Covid-19, says US expert
The Omicron variant has been spreading across the United States rapidly. It was already hit hard by the earlier waves of the pandemic, and not the new strain of coronavirus has accelerated the rate of infection in the US.
On Thursday, New York recorded the highest single-day count of infection with 21,027 cases. The previous high was on January 14 when 19,942 cases were recorded.
This has prompted a leading health expert to say that Omicron will soon strike millions of people. “We’re really just about to experience a viral blizzard,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN last week.
“In the next three to eight weeks, we’re going to see millions of Americans are going to be infected with this virus, and that will be overlaid on top of Delta,” he further said.
Osterholm also expressed concern over the strain this rapid rise in infection will put on the country’s healthcare system.
Omicron is now the dominant strain in the US, accounting for 73 per cent of new infections last week, federal health officials said on 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.
Since the end of June, the delta variant had been the main version causing US infections. As recently as the end of November, more than 99.5 per cent of coronaviruses were delta, according to CDC data.
The research around Omicron, which emerged in South Africa on November 24, is still in its initial stage. Health experts, however, say that vaccines still offer best protection against the variant, which has 32 mutations in it and has spread to nearly 100 countries in just one month.
A debate on offering a booster shot to those already vaccinated is already going on; early studies have suggested it is the best chance at preventing the Omicron infection.