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Omicron Variant Now Accounting For 73% of New COVID Cases As It Rages Across America

Omicron Variant Now Accounting For 73% of New COVID Cases As It Rages Across America

Scientists in Africa first sounded the alarm about the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus less than a month ago. By November 26th the World Health Organization (WHO) designated it as a “variant of concern.” The mutation has since shown up in about 90 countries, racing ahead of other variants, and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday.

Since the end of June, the Delta variant had been the main version causing U.S. infections. As recently as the end of November, more than 99.5% of coronaviruses were Delta, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the newest numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in Omicron’s share of infections in only one week. In much of the country, it’s even higher. Omicron is responsible for an estimated 90% or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. The national rate suggests that more than 650,000 new Omicron infections occurred in the U.S. last week. In the week that ended December 11th, Omicron’s share of new infections in the U.S. increased to 2.9% from 0.4% the week before, the CDC previously reported.

(Photo by U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

But the CDC said they are revising some of the earlier numbers, after analyzing more specimens. The new numbers indicate that about 13% of the infections the week of Dec. 11 were Omicron, and not 3%, CDC officials said.

Much about the Omicron variant still remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing Omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the new numbers reflect the kind of growth seen in other countries. “These numbers are stark, but they’re not surprising,” she said.

The CDC’s estimates are based on thousands of coronavirus specimens collected each week through university and commercial laboratories and state and local health departments. Scientists analyze their genetic sequences to determine which versions of the COVID-19 viruses are most abundant.

President Biden will address the nation Tuesday night to discuss his administration’s plan to further combat the Omicron variant.

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