Omicron has become the most common form of coronavirus in the US, accounting for 73% of all cases, federal officials said Monday in the latest nationwide estimate. The US recorded its first confirmed Omicron infection three weeks ago in a San Francisco resident who had recently traveled to South Africa.
The California Department of Public Health said it is now being “found in increasing proportion in wastewater in many areas in California.”
The department, without naming the system, said that at least three of the state’s health systems have reported that about 50% to 70% of their coronavirus cases corresponded to Omicron.
It cautioned that full genomic sequencing of virus samples is pending and takes several days, but said California’s early results track the estimate nationwide.
“Overall, clinical and wastewater data indicate that omicron cases are present in most areas of the state,” officials said.
As on Friday, the state had 4,990,016 confirmed cases and over 75,000 deaths so far. Case reporting is expected to be delayed due to holidays.
Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California is in a better position to handle the surge than it was a year ago, when severe cases pushed hospitals and morgues to breaking point, and far less affected than many other states. Has happened.
Much is unknown about the Omicron coronavirus disease, including whether it causes more or less severe disease. But Britain’s Public Health Agency said on Thursday that early data suggests people with the Omicron variant are 50% to 70% less likely to be hospitalized than those with the delta strain.
Local officials were also sounding the alarm about the rapid spread of the new version.
San Francisco’s Department of Public Health said Thursday that cases are rising three times faster in San Francisco than in the delta-fueled summer. While this type may result in less severe illness than in Delta, officials warned that “transmissions are so high that San Francisco is likely to see higher rates of hospitalization in the coming weeks.”
The nation’s most populous Los Angeles County reported more than 6,500 new cases on Wednesday. This figure is more than double the number of cases since Tuesday and 9,988 new cases were reported till Friday. Health officials were worried that by the end of the year there could be more than 20,000 cases a day.
The county’s director of public health, Barbara Ferrer, said the doubling of cases from Tuesday to Wednesday represented “one of the fastest increases we have ever seen during the pandemic”.
“These numbers make it clear that we are heading into a very challenging time on vacation,” she said. “If our case count continues to grow at a rapid rate this week and next week, we could see a number of cases we’ve never seen before.”
There were more than 650 positive tests reported in Orange County on Thursday, compared to nearly 400 on a certain day last week, and county deputy health officer Dr. Regina Chincio-Kwong attributed most of the increase to Omicron .
Yolo County officials said at least 16 cases of the outbreak occurred at a workplace holiday party with about 50 people in Davis, west of Sacramento, at least 10 of whom were identified as Omicrons. All 16 were fully vaccinated and eight received their boosters.
Public health officials similarly said that at least 28 vaccinated people tested positive after a holiday party in Marin County, north of San Francisco, and they believe it contains the Omicron variant.
Scientists say that Omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, including Delta. Preliminary studies suggest that vaccination will require a booster shot for the best chance of preventing Omicron infection, but even without the additional dose, vaccination should still provide strong protection against serious illness and death.
Newsom kept that hope alive as he urged people to get vaccinated or get their booster shots.
“We’re all tired of it,” he admitted. “But we have something that we never had in the past, and that is the power of these life-saving vaccines and the power to get through the fifth wave of this pandemic.”
Associated Press writers Stephanie Diazio in Los Angeles and Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to this story.
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