The United States on Monday set a global record for nearly 1 million new coronavirus infections reported, according to a Reuters tally, nearly doubling the country’s peak hit just a week ago as the highly infectious Omicron variant shows no signs of slowing Is.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has risen nearly 50 percent in the past week and has now exceeded 100,000, a Reuters analysis showed, the first time it has reached the limit since a cold surge a year ago.
Overall, the United States has seen an average of 486,000 cases per day over the past week, a rate doubling in seven days and far higher than any other country. Monday’s 978,856 new infections include some cases on Saturday and Sunday, when many states do not report.
According to a Reuters tally, the average number of US COVID-19 deaths per day has held steady at around 1,300 throughout December and into early January, although deaths generally lag behind cases and hospitalizations.
Omicron appears to transmit far more easily than previous iterations of the virus. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday that an estimated 95.4% of the coronavirus cases identified in the United States as of January 1.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the evidence so far suggests that Omicron is causing less severe disease. Still, public health officials warn that hospitals are threatened by the sheer volume of omicron cases, some of whom are already struggling to handle a wave of COVID-19 patients, mainly among unrelated .
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency on Tuesday and mobilized 1,000 National Guard members for pandemic response missions as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state reached a record high of more than 3,000. Hogan said this is an increase of over 500% over the past seven weeks.
“The truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging time of the entire pandemic,” Hogan told reporters. “Our latest estimates today suggest that the number of COVID hospitalizations could exceed 5,000, up 250% from our previous peak of 1,952 last year.”
Delaware, Illinois, Ohio and Washington, DC have also reported record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients in recent days.
‘Unlike anything we’ve seen’
In Kentucky, where Tuesday’s total of 6,915 new cases is the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, Governor Andy Beshear urged residents to get vaccinated and wear masks.
“Contrary to everything we’ve seen, Omicron is creating a boom and will fill our hospitals at this rate,” he wrote on Twitter.
The incredible surge has prompted more than 3,200 schools to close their buildings this week, according to Barbio, a site that tracks school disruptions. Schools that have remained open are facing staff shortages and renewed concerns about the virus spreading.
In Boston, where more than 54,000 students returned to class after a break on Tuesday, school superintendent Brenda Casselius told reporters that 1,000 staff members, including 461 teachers and 52 bus drivers, were out.
“It makes for a rough start to the day,” she said.
In Chicago, the teachers’ union on Monday objected to a return to schools, saying the district requires stricter protocols such as required testing. Teachers were expected to vote on Tuesday whether they support working remotely from Wednesday.
More than 325,000 COVID-19 cases among children were reported in the United States for the week ending December 30, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, a new high and nearly double the number from the previous two weeks.
The Biden administration is finalizing contracts for 500 million rapid coronavirus tests, the White House said on Tuesday, which it plans to distribute free of charge to Americans. The initiative is intended to help mitigate a testing crisis that has led to insufficient supplies and long lines in many places.
In addition, the administration doubled its order for Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 antiviral pills to total 20 million treatment courses.
Government health officials have emphasized that vaccines and boosters are the best way to avoid serious illness.
The CDC on Tuesday recommended reducing the interval between Pfizer-BioNtech’s second COVID-19 vaccine dose and booster shot to six to five months, a day after the Food and Drug Administration made a similar move .
(Reporting by Joseph X, Lisa Shumaker, Maria Caspani and Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Berkrot)