US coronavirus: Omicron will not recognize state borders if it storms the US, says an expert

“Although more people who get it will have a milder condition, so many more people will get it overall that I think we will see a real challenge in our health systems in the next three to eight weeks.” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“And what’s really challenging is that we can also expect 10-30% of healthcare workers to become infected during that time.”

The variant will not discriminate according to national borders, Osterholm told CNN on Monday.

“Instead of seeing the regional increases that we’ve seen at Delta – much of the west is very low right now with Delta, parts of the south – I think Omicron is going to be a national viral blizzard,” he said.

The first confirmed Omicron fatality in the US was reported on Monday. The Texas man in his fifties was unvaccinated, had previous health conditions and had previously been infected with Covid-19, officials said.

Worldwide, the Omicron cases double every 1.5 to 3 days, announced the World Health Organization.

Omicron’s far higher transfer rates compared to Delta would lead to an increase in hospital admissions in the US, Osterholm said.

According to CDC numbers, nearly 73% of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 61.5% are fully vaccinated and 29.8% of those who are fully vaccinated have received a booster.

People should focus on getting optimal protection from the virus with three doses of vaccine, Osterholm said.

“Right now we have a lot of people in this country who have bought protection, but will it be enough to prevent serious illness with Omicron? We don’t know.”

It is worrying that only 30% of Americans vaccinated have received a third dose, as it takes seven to 14 days for immunity to really last after a booster, Osterholm said.

“Well, that leads us into the new year. Leads us right through the Christmas season and straight to the heart of the Omicron, what I call ‘Blizzard’. So it doesn’t look good. It’s a really perfect storm of events, unfortunately, “he said.

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President Joe Biden is expected to announce further steps in the fight against Covid-19 on Tuesday, the White House said, but he will not necessarily talk about further restrictions amid rising cases.
Biden will announce the purchase of half a billion rapid Covid-19 rapid tests at home and a plan to distribute them free to Americans who request them through a website, an administration official said.

The 500 million new tests will be made available and mailed to Americans next month, the official said.

The president’s new initiatives include a plan to prepare 1,000 military personnel for deployment in overcrowded hospitals across the country in January and February, administration officials said. These service members include doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other military medical personnel.

States are preparing for Omicron

Some states are already overwhelmed with Army medical personnel deployed to fight Covid-19 in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Two teams of 20 will be deployed to support civil hospitals in the two states, the US Army’s Northern Command said on Monday.

Northeast Ohio is now in crisis, said Dr. Brook Watts, Chief Medical Officer of Community and Public Health at MetroHealth System in Cleveland.

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“I think health systems said it best together this weekend. When we published a joint ad with all the hospitals in our region and there was one word in it, it said ‘Help’. It said help because our hospitals are filled with patients with Covid and we are struggling, “she told CNN on Monday.

All Americans must do their part in the fight against Covid-19, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, on Monday.

“It has nothing to do with freedom; it has to do with protecting yourself and your family from a potentially fatal disease that has already killed over 800,000 Americans – but also giving up your social responsibility to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, “Fauci said the National Press Club Headliners Virtual Newsmaker event.

According to data recently released by the CDC, unvaccinated people are 10 times more likely to test positive and 20 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people who also received a booster dose.

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Compared to fully vaccinated people who have not yet received a third dose, unvaccinated people have a five times higher risk of testing positive for Covid-19 and a 14 times higher risk of death, according to the CDC data analysis by October.

Cases have risen in New York state, almost tripling in one week, according to data from Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration on Monday. And in New York City officials are working to restore additional testing capacity, they said.

In Washington, DC – which has seen the highest daily number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began – the mandate for inner masks was reintroduced on Tuesday at 6 a.m. ET and will remain in place through January 31, announced Mayor Muriel Bowser.

In Boston, proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required for indoor restaurants, fitness facilities, theaters and arenas, said Mayor Michelle Wu. The mandate applies to customers and employees and is placed online in phases: single doses of the vaccine are required by January 15th, second doses by February 15th.

How parents can protect their children

The situation at Omicron is serious, “but not bad” for children, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, editor-in-chief of JAMA Pediatrics, told CNN on Monday.

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“From the data available so far, Omicron does not cause serious illness in children, and the good news is that children over 5 years of age can be vaccinated and vaccination provides significant protection,” he said.

But children under the age of 5 can’t be vaccinated yet, and if the number of cases increases with the higher-transferable variant, the number of seriously ill children will also increase, Christakis said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the first name of was misspelled Dr. Brook Watts, Chief Medical Officer of Community and Public Health at MetroHealth System in Cleveland.

CNN’s Sonnet Swire, Laura Lee, Artemis Moshtaghian, Raja Razek, Nikki Carvajal, Virginia Langmaid, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Kevin Liptak and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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