A former member of President Joe Biden’s Transition COVID Advisory Board said on Sunday he expects COVID will become ‘endemic’ like the flu later this year, despite the United States recording the second highest daily total for new COVID cases on Friday.
In total, as of Saturday, the United States has seen 59.9 million cases since the COVID pandemic first began two years ago with 900,000 deaths.
On Saturday, the case rate skyrocketed with 900,832 new reported cases, the second-highest daily total for new COVID cases since the pandemic began – second only to the more than 1 million cases recorded last Monday.
The average daily case increase over the past seven days has been 786,824 as of Sunday, up 18 percent, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Deaths ticked up on Saturday to 2,615, a 22 percent increase from week-ago levels on a rolling-average basis, but were still well below the peak they were at one year ago.
The surge in cases has led to a nationwide shortage in available staff members to handle business and services, with 5 million people serving in police and fire departments calling out sick.
Many experts have said the infection rate will continue to increase for the next few weeks before the Omicron surge peaks later this month, with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Dr. Anthony Fauci saying on Friday that the US will likely record more than 1 million cases daily on a regular basis in coming weeks.
‘It’s still surging upward… I would not be surprised at all if we go over a million cases per day,’ he told WNBC-TV. ‘I would hope that by the time we get to the fourth week in January — end of the third week, beginning of the fourth week – that we will start see this coming down.’
By the end of the year, a former member of Biden’s Transition COVID Advisory Board said on Sunday, the COVID pandemic could even become endemic, meaning diagnoses numbers would become stable and predictable.
‘I would say we’re not yet in the endemic stage. We’re still in the pandemic stage,’ Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel told NBC host Chuck Todd during a panel discussion on Sunday’s Meet the Press. ‘If you’ve got 1,500 people a dying from this disease it’s still a pandemic and Omicron is spreading.’
But, he continued: ‘We think that over the course of 2022, we will get to an endemic stage – and the plan is – or the proposal is – we need a strategic plan for that, that covers vaccines, getting more people vaccinated, and the only way to do that, as we’ve been very clear over time, is mandates.’
Emanuel said that about 60 percent of Americans voluntarily received a COVID vaccine, but the numbers increased once workplace and jurisdictional vaccine mandates were instituted. As of Sunday, more than 74 percent of all Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 62.5 percent are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former member of President Joe Biden’s Transition COVID Advisory Board, said on Sunday that COVID could become ‘endemic’ like the flu later this year in the United States
Emanuel also said on Sunday that new treatments and other mitigation measures will also play a role in helping the virus become more manageable, noting: ‘We need to improve our ventilation system. We need to get more therapies and get the link between a positive test and getting therapy much closer so you can actually start in three days and not only the rich and well-off get it.
‘Those are kinds of things we need to put in place over the next three months to be prepared when COVID is really just in the air, like RSV – another respiratory virus, like influenza, like adenovirus, all the respiratory viruses.
‘It’s going to be here,’ he continued. ‘We’re going to learn to live with it.’
His comments come as health officials in the UK reported that cases decreased 6.7 percent on Sunday to 141,472 new cases, and COVID hospitalizations in London, which has been ravaged in recent weeks by the Omicron surge, has decreased 31 percent to 310 on January 6 – the latest date regional data is available for.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures from Saturday also show there were 146,390 new positive tests over the past 24 hours, down 18.5 percent on the previous week’s figure of 179,637. That marked the biggest week-on-week fall since the start of November, well before the mutant strain sent cases soaring across the country.
But the number of people dying with the virus, however, rose 32.9 percent in the UK, with 97 deaths reported on Sunday, compared to 73 reported one week prior.
It marked the biggest week-on-week fall since the start of November, well before the mutant strain sent cases soaring across the country.
Experts now hope nationwide numbers will continue to follow London’s trajectory of rapidly falling cases and now hospitalizations. A similar trend was seen Omicron ground zero South Africa, which saw a sharp peak in cases before infections quickly dropped off.
On Friday, the case rate skyrocketed with 900,832 new reported cases, the second-highest daily total for new COVID cases since the pandemic began as deaths ticked up to 2,615
But in the United States, the surge in Omicron infections is causing a breakdown in basic functions and services two years into the pandemic.
‘This really does, I think, remind everyone of when COVID-19 first appeared and there were such major disruptions across every part of our normal life,’ said Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness at the global health nonprofit Project HOPE. ‘And the unfortunate reality is, there´s no way of predicting what will happen next until we get our vaccination numbers – globally – up.’
First responders, hospitals, schools and government agencies have employed an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep the public safe, but they are worried how much longer they can keep it up.
California is now allowing hospitals to force COVID-positive asymptomatic staff to work as the state grapples with a surge of Omicron cases and staff shortages.
‘Hospitals have to exhaust all other options before resorting to this temporary tool. Facilities and providers using this tool, should have asymptomatic COVID-19 positive workers interact only with COVID-19 positive patients to the extent possible,’ a statement issued by the California Department of Public Health on Saturday read.
The news sparked outrage among advocates for health workers, who argue hospital staff has carried the weight of the pandemic on their shoulders and are now being put at risk, along with their patients.
‘Healthcare workers and patients need the protection of clear rules guided by strong science. Allowing employers to bring back workers who may still be infectious is one of the worst ideas I have heard during this pandemic, and that’s really saying something,’ Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU California told CBS Sacramento.
Health and human Services Secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said on Wednesday ‘some facilities are going to be strapped,’ as the Omicron variants spike worsens the situation.
About 40 percent of hospitals are expected to face critical shortages. Kiyomi Burchill, a member of the California Hospital Association, said some hospitals have reported as much as one quarter of their staff out for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, in Kansas’ Johnson County, paramedics are working 80 hours a week. Ambulances have frequently been forced to alter their course when the hospitals they’re heading to tell them they’re too overwhelmed to help, confusing the patients’ already anxious family members driving behind them. When the ambulances arrive at hospitals, some of their emergency patients end up in waiting rooms because there are no beds.
Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Hospital, said when the leader of a rural hospital had no place to send its dialysis patients this week, the hospital’s staff consulted a textbook and ‘tried to put in some catheters and figure out how to do it.’
Medical facilities have been hit by a ‘double whammy,’ he said. The number of COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Hospital rose from 40 on December 1 to 139 on Friday. At the same time, more than 900 employees have been sickened with COVID-19 or are awaiting test results – 7 percent of the hospital’s 13,500-person workforce.
‘What my hope is and what we´re going to cross our fingers around is that as it peaks … maybe it´ll have the same rapid fall we saw in South Africa,’ Stites said, referring to the swiftness with which the number of cases fell in that country. ‘We don´t know that. That´s just hope.’
CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles County Fire Department vehicles sat at a medical call on Friday in Inglewood amid a staff shortage of EMTs due to the Omicron COVID surge
The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more readily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Still, its easy transmissibility has led to skyrocketing cases in the U.S., which is affecting businesses, government offices and public services alike.
In downtown Boise, Idaho, customers were lined up outside a pharmacy before it opened Friday morning and before long, the line wound throughout the large drugstore. Pharmacies have been slammed by staffing shortages, either because employees are out sick or have left altogether.
And in Los Angeles, more than 800 police and fire personnel were sidelined because of the virus as of Thursday, causing slightly longer ambulance and fire response times.
Officials in New York City have also had to delay or scale back trash and subway services because of a virus-fueled staffing hemorrhage. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said about one-fifth of subway operators and conductors – 1,300 people – have been absent in recent days. Almost one-fourth of the city sanitation department’s workers were out sick Thursday, Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson said.
‘Everybody´s working ´round the clock, 12-hour shifts,’ Grayson said.
The city’s fire department also has adjusted for higher absences. Officials said Thursday that 28 percent of EMS workers were out sick, compared with about 8 percent to 10 percent on a normal day. Twice as many firefighters as usual were also absent.
In contrast, the police department saw its sick rate fall over the past week, officials said.
NEW MEXICO: A sign notifies fans that they will need to show proof of a COVID vaccine or a negative test result to attend a sports game
Experts say cases will continue to rise but could decrease soon if more people get vaccinated
At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, two checkpoints at the airport’s busiest terminal were shut down because not enough Transportation Security Administration agents showed up for work, according to statements from airport and TSA officials.
And schools from coast to coast tried to maintain in-person instruction despite massive teacher absences.
In Chicago, a tense standoff between the school district and teachers union over remote learning and COVID-19 safety protocols led to classes being canceled over the past three days. In San Francisco, nearly 900 educators and aides called in sick Thursday.
In Hawaii, where public schools are under one statewide district, 1,600 teachers and staff were absent Wednesday because of illness or pre-arranged vacation or leave. The state´s teachers union criticized education officials for not better preparing for the ensuing void.
Meanwhile, in New Haven, Connecticut, where hundreds of teachers have been out each day this week, administrators have helped to cover classrooms. Some teachers say they appreciate that, but that it can be confusing for students, adding to the physical and mental stress they’re already feeling because of the pandemic.
‘We´ve already been tested so much. How much can the rubber band stretch here?’ asked Leslie Blatteau, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers.
The situation may also get worse as scientists in Cyprus have identified a new ‘Deltacron’ Covid strain in 25 patients that combines the Delta and Omicron variants.
Leonidos Kostrikis, professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, said the strain has a similar genetic structure to Omicron with the genomes of Delta.
His team has identified 25 cases of the hybrid variant so far and it is still too early to assess its impact, Bloomberg reported.
But out of those identified, 11 of them were in patients already hospitalized with Covid and 14 were among the general public.
Kostrikis said: ‘We will see in the future if this strain is more pathological or more contagious or if it will prevail.’
The scientists have sent their findings to GISAID, an international database that tracks viruses.
PENNSYLVANIA: Cars lined up for COVID testing as the Omicron surge continues to spread throughout the United States
CALIFORNIA: Amelle Samuel, 7, and her mother, Kimberli, sat in a waiting area after getting a COVID shot
OHIO: Medical staff treated a COVID patient as some hospitals are turning away patients
Still, hospitalizations amongst children has remained relatively low, despite Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s claim that there were 100,000 pediatric COVID hospitalizations.
As of January 8, the number of hospitalization in children in the US is roughly 5,000, while the number of such hospitalizations has not surpassed the 84,000 cumulative since August 2020.
And while pediatric hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the US have reached the highest case count ever reported since the start of the pandemic, the Associate Justice’s false claim exaggerated figures more than 20 times.
But on Friday, Justice Sotomayor exaggerated the number of severe COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among children as she attempted to convince conservative Supreme Court justices that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses should be enforced.
‘We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition, and many on ventilators,’ she said at the time.
But by Sunday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky contradicted Sotomayor’s claim during a segment of Fox News.
‘The number is not 100,000. It’s roughly 3500 in hospitals now?’ asked host Bret Baier.
‘Yes. In fact, what I will say is, while pediatric hospitalizations are rising, they’re still about 15 fold less than hospitalizations of our older age or age demographic,’ Walensky answered.
She added that the vast majority of children hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and often present underlying conditions such as obesity.
Walensky also said that the CDC will provide data on ‘how many of the 836,000 deaths in the US linked to COVID are from COVID and how many are with COVID.’
Nearly 7.9 million American children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, or more than 1 in 10.
For the week ending December 30, more than 325,000 children were diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a 64percent increase compared to the week prior.
Children were 0.00percent – 0.27percent of COVID-19 deaths. About 600 Americans under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.