The Omicron variant could soon run out of steam in the U.S., with many experts predicting cases will reach their peak within the coming weeks. A combination of high infection and vaccination rates mean the strain could soon run out of people to infect, and cases could quickly start declining soon.
The U.S. is currently averaging 750,515 new cases every day, the second highest daily average recorded in the pandemic so far – only trailing the figure recorded Tuesday of 767,200. While it is a long way from the 264,546 cases being average two weeks ago at the end of January, case growth is already starting to slow day to day.
One of the reasons cases may soon decline is the fact that the variant could eventually run out of people to infect. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease and the country’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday the variant will eventually infect almost everyone in America.
‘Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,’ Fauci said
‘Those who have been vaccinated … and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death.’
Fauci, along with many other health officials are still recommending all Americans to get vaccinated and boosted if they have not already. While around 1,700 Americans are still dying from the virus every day, almost all deaths are among unvaccinated people, and the shots are highly effective at mitigating any complications even after infection. With how quickly the variant is spreading, and how many people are getting infected in such a short period of time, many are hopeful that Omicron will run out of people to infect in the coming weeks.
A promising sign is coming out of Boston, Massachusetts. The state is among those currently dealing with the worst of the surge, but wastewater data is showing a recent sharp decline in the amount of Covid in the local population.
Wastewater can be tested to find what level of an overall population is dealing with Covid. Traces of the virus are found in a person’s urine and stool, and sewage centers can test massive samples to see prevalence of Covid in the population.
Earlier this year, prevalence of Covid in Boston wastewater began to surge, up to 10,000 RNA copies of the virus per milliliter sampled – more than triple previous levels. The figure has quickly declined to 6,000 copies per milliliter, a 40 percent drop in virus prevalence.
‘But this suggests good news for the disruption caused by the sheer numbers of infections. Will likely take a few days to show up in case counts, which if they follow will show a peak around now. Just like there was a peak this time last year. Past is prologue,’ Bill Hanage, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in a tweet.
The most promising sign for the U.S. is the current situation in England. Once the global hotspot for the variant, cases in the UK are down 45 percent over the past week, with around 120,000 people testing positive every day. While deaths and hospitalizations have risen in recent days, neither figure has managed to keep up with infections at all recently.
Covid cases in the U.S. have surged in recent weeks, up by 185% over the past two weeks. Some experts believe the rapid surge in cases will lead to the variant running out of steam soon and reaching its peak before receding
Wastewater data from Boston, in Covid-struck Massachusetts, shows that Covid prevalence in sewage has dropped 40% this week after surging to record levels to start the year
UK sees cases drop 45% in a week and infections decline six days in a row in sign Omicron surge has peaked
The UK emerged as an early hotspot for the Omicron variant, but with cases are now on the decline, leading many to believe the variant fueled surge is now coming to a close.
Cases have dropped by 45% over the past week, and declining cases have now been recorded in six consecutive days
Hospitalizations and deaths continue to creep upwards, but like the U.S., neither figure has risen to the same extent that cases have. This signals the more mild nature of the Omicron variant, and the effectiveness of the vaccines
One expert says the UK is the most well-positioned nation in the northern hemisphere to deal with the Omicron variant going forward
A similar pattern has occurred in South Africa, where the variant was first detected in late November
The U.S. often lags behind the UK by a few weeks. Many stateside experts are predicting that cases will soon peak, then decline, in the U.S. in the near future as well.
What happens in the UK often precedes the U.S. by a few weeks, and the current decline in cases across the pond matches predictions by American health officials that the virus will likely recede in the coming weeks.
South Africa, where the variant was first detected in late November, has seen cases plummet in recent weeks after a massive surge to end 2021. After peaking at over 23,000 cases in mid-December, the nation is only recording 7,000 cases per day at the moment, showing another quick decline in cases after a rapid rise.
Dr Ali Mokdad, also of the University of Washington, told the Associated Press this week that he also believes the same will occur, and that cases could even start rapidly declining soon.
‘It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,’ Mokdad, who teaches health metrics at the school, said.
Dr Pavitra Roychoudhury is a bioinformatics expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. She told DailyMail.com that more tests than ever are coming back positive at the moment, and while it is overwhelming, the recent surge should peak soon.
‘My understanding is that eventually there’ll be enough people will infected that there’ll be some sort of some sort of immunity that will be established,’ she said.
‘That will result in those case numbers plateauing, and then starting to turn down again… It can’t come soon enough.’
On Tuesday, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) predicted that up to 40 percent of Americans will eventually become infected during the surge. He also believes around ten percent of the population is actively infected at any given moment.
When a person gets infected they, at least temporarily, have some protection from re-infection. As the pool of people available for the virus to infect quickly shrinks, the virus will slowly begin to lose steam and recede. Many people have also been jabbed, with 63 percent of Americans fully vaccinated and 23 percent having received a booster, giving even more people protection from the variant.
While cases in the U.S. have quickly grown, deaths have not followed. Around 1,700 Americans are dying from Covid every day, only a 10% jump over the past two weeks, and nowhere near records set last winter
‘Because you’ll have lots of people who’ve had a natural infection, or [are] protected via vaccination, and they just have not been infected yet and are protected from that. Combined, those two things will hopefully allow [the surge] to hit that peak and then start turning down and gradually reduce,’ she told the DailyMail.com.
Roychoudhury agrees with Mokdad and others that signs from overseas show that the surge could rapidly decline after it reaches its peak.
For now, though, the surge continues across the U.S. Cases are up 185 percent over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations are reaching record levels as well, with 140,641 people in the hospital with Covid every day. That figure also includes people who go to a hospital for a non-Covid reason and test positive while there – though. This means the figure is likely inflated by non-virus illnesses and injuries.
Dr Pavitra Roychoudhury (pictured) is a bioinformatics expert at the University of Washington. She says Omicron is spreading at such a rapid rate that it will likely reach its peak in the coming weeks, before cases start declining
Across the pond, the situation in the UK is getting better by the day. Wednesday marks the sixth straight day where daily cases have declined in the once-Covid ravaged nation. While deaths have increased week-over-week, some are attributing the low figures last week to data reporting lags caused by the holidays.
‘In general, now, the countries we know best in the northern hemisphere have varying stages of the pandemic,’ David Heyman, an epidemiologist from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.
‘And probably, in the UK, it’s the closest to any country of being out of the pandemic if it isn’t already out of the pandemic and having the disease as endemic as the other four coronaviruses.’
He notes that between a successful campaign to rollout Covid booster shots, and the amount of Britons that have already been infected, enough people already have immunity against the new strain that its spread can be controlled. And even those that do get infected will not suffer severe cases due to their body’s increased ability to combat the variant.
‘That means immunity against serious illness and death after infection if one is vaccinated, or after re-infection if one has had illness before, and that population immunity seems to be keeping the virus and its variants at bay, not causing serious illness or death in countries where population immunity is high,’ he said.
‘I looked at the ONS (Office for National Statistics) most recent report on population immunity and they estimated about 95 percent of the population in England and a little less than in other parts of the United Kingdom do have antibody to infection either from vaccination or from natural infection.
‘And that antibody, as I said, is keeping the virus at bay. And it’s now functioning more like an endemic coronavirus than one that is a pandemic.’
Cases are trending downwards almost everywhere in England, and London – once the worst struck city in the world by Omicron – is no longer among the national leaders in new daily cases.
Deaths have remained at bay as well, not nearly rising to the same extent as cases during the recent surge. The nation is currently averaging 120,821 cases and 379 deaths per day. While hospitalizations have climbed, the figures are inflated by people coming in for other issues and testing positive while they are there – just like what is happening in the U.S. Nearly a third of Covid occupied beds in England are filled by people who came in for treatment for a different reason.
As cases decline, health officials are also discussing the possibility of reducing the nation’s quarantine period for positive tests down to five days, from seven, following a move made by the CDC in America in recent weeks.
Experts say there is reason to believe that incidentals will continue to rise as the variant pushes England’s infection rates to record highs, with one in 15 people estimated to have had Covid on New Year’s Eve
UK Health Security Agency data showed London recorded 12,000 cases yesterday, the least in a month. It was comparable to the total cases on December 13
All 30 boroughs in London, once suffering the worst surge in the world, are currently recording declining cases. Cases are starting to decline almost everywhere, and the areas that are still seeing cases rise are experiencing surges at rates much lower than previous weeks.
Around 12,000 cases were recorded in London on January 11, a far fall from the 20,000 cases per day being recorded at the start of 2022, and the lowest daily total since December 13.
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is now giving ‘optimistic signals’ that the worst of Covid is over. Just last month, England’s chief medical officer publicly dismissed South African doctors’ claims that Omicron was mild and accused people of ‘overinterpreting’ data.
In South Africa, the starting point of the Omicron surge, cases and hospitalizations are on a sharp decline as well.
Covid cases in the nation began to rapidly rise at the end of last year. Cases peaked at over 23,000 per day – a new record for the country – in mid-December, before a rapid decline began. Only weeks later, the country is recording 7,200 cases per day, a drop of over 60 percent in only a month.
Some nations are still in the same place as the U.S. at the moment, though.
Germany set a new record for new cases Wednesday, with 80,430 logged. The previous record for the country was set in late November, right around when the Omicron variant was discovered, and cases interestingly began to drop.
After Christmas, cases in the country started to spike once more after reaching a low of around 40,000 cases per day. Cases have doubled over the past two weeks now.
The country has already put some strict lockdown measures in place, like limiting private gatherings to only ten people and putting a halt to large scale events, even when outdoors.
France recorded 368,149 cases on Wednesday, also a record for the western European country. The country’s current surge is by far the worst it has suffered, with the 270,000 cases being logged every day being more than five-fold higher than the previous record of around 50,000 cases.
The country has implemented a national vaccine passport system, with unvaccinated people barred from indoor dining and other facilities unless they have a recent negative test.