April 1, 2023

Pandemic: 2022 going the way of 2020 too? – Times of India

WASHINGTON: 2022 is going the way of 2020 too. A third year of global pandemic is on the cards with more than half million new Covid-19 cases recorded in the United States heading into the new year. The only silver lining is that new variant omicron is causing milder illness and less hospitalisation, particularly among the vaccinated.
Americans, even the fully vaccinated, are being eschew reckless new year’s eve partying and forsake hugs and kisses as the virus has broken into a gallop, infecting essential workers including hospital staff, airline employees, restaurant workers and the like. Dr Michael Osterholm, a member of President Biden’s transition team’s Covid task force, told CBS News that he expects a “viral blizzard” to exacerbate the situation in the coming weeks.
The effects are already being seen on the ground with US airlines cancelling nearly 1000 flights on Thursday and restaurants starting to shutter down, as the virus put a hex on new year celebrations. Schools and colleges, which are scheduled to reopen on January 3 after the holiday break, are reassessing the situation. Some have already announced a return to online instruction.
All this on the heels of the CDC recently dropping the required quarantine time for a positive Covid case down to five days, from ten, in an effort to keep society functioning amid the surge. A New York Times global tally put at more than one million people a day on average being infected with the coronavirus — about half of them in the US.
There is some confusion about how much of the surge is due to the Omicron variant with estimates ranging from 30 to 70 per cent in the US. But going by the developments in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected, experts expect the surge to be relatively brief, peaking in weeks rather than months.
About 200 million Americans, nearly 62 per cent of the population, are fully vaccinated, and about a third of them, more than 68 million, have received a booster dose. That could account for the relatively low levels of hospitalisation and mortality. Despite the surge in infections, deaths are down by five percent over the past two weeks with a daily average of 1221 (compared to more than 3000 deaths a day at the previous height of the pandemic in 2020) while hospitalizations increased by just 15 percent to an average of 78781 per day.
But no one is sticking their necks out with projections written in stone (one expert said he’s rather use pencil than pen in calculations) even though Omicron is now a confirmed milder variant. It is only the 15th Greek alphabet of 25. Pi comes next, and humankind is hoping it does not get a life.

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