As many as 1.3 million new COVID-19 cases are expected in the US by Christmas Day — and as many as 15,600 additional deaths by Jan. 8 — as Omicron continues to spread in the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned.
The grim predictions mean that “a total of 837,000 to 845,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date,” the CDC said in its latest update from Wednesday.
In addition, the number of new daily confirmed hospital admissions will likely increase over the next month, with 6,300 to 18,400 likely reported on Jan. 7, the agency announced.
“This week’s national ensemble predicts 620,000 to 1,300,000 new cases are likely to be reported in the week ending December 25, 2021,” it said.
The numbers correspond to a 73 percent spike in deaths from the 8,001 recorded in the past seven days and a 55 percent jump in new cases from the 125,503 in the same period, according to CDC data as of Wednesday.
The alarming numbers come as the Omicron variant spreads at higher rates in New York and New Jersey than the rest of the country, CDC chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday, and experts warn that the strain has a “rather profound” ability to escape vaccine protection.
Walensky said the contagious variant is estimated to account for about 3 percent of infections that are being genetically sequenced nationwide — with the highest rates in the New York-New Jersey region.
“In some areas of the country, the estimates of Omicron are even higher including in New York and New Jersey, where CDC projects that Omicron could represent about 13% of all cases,” she said at a COVID-19 press briefing.
Walensky cautioned that Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant, which is currently the dominant strain in the country — with cases of Omicron doubling every two days.
“It means that it is vital for everyone to get vaccinated and boosted if they are eligible,” she said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said preliminary studies indicate that Omicron has a “rather profound” ability to escape the protection provided by two-dose mRNA vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna shots.
But that booster shots significantly enhanced immunity “to the tune of a 38-fold increase.”
Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who monitors variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School, said that in addition to Omicron, the Delta “surge is ongoing and, in fact, accelerating.”
“That’s alarming, because our hospitals are already filling up. Staff are fatigued,” leaving limited capacity for a potential crush of COVID-19 cases “from an Omicron wave superimposed on a Delta surge,” he said.
Globally, more than 75 countries have reported confirmed cases of Omicron. In the US, 36 states have detected the variant.
Meanwhile, Delta is surging in many places, with hot spots in New England and the upper Midwest. The five states with the highest two-week rolling average of cases per 100,000 people are New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Michigan, Minnesota and Vermont.
Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the US has the tools to fight the virus, including omicron, and “there is no need to lock down.”
With vaccines available now for 95 percent of Americans, “we know how to keep our kids in schools and our businesses open. And we’re not going to shut down.”
With Post wires