Scientists in the U.S. see a turnaround in the fight against the highly contagious corona mutant Omicron. "It [the mutant] will decline as fast as it shot up," Ali Mokdad, a public health expert and professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, predicts to the AP news agency. According to the report, the university's models predict that infection numbers in the U.S. will peak by Jan. 19 - with an average of 1.2 million cases a day. After that, the numbers would drop noticeably, "simply because everyone who could be infected will be infected," Mokdad said.
Combined with late-breaking reports over the weekend, U.S. health officials already counted more than 1.4 million new corona cases last Monday, The New York Times reports. Daily new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise. A turning point in the Corona pandemic, as heralded by Ali Mokdad, still seems unimaginable at this point.
Unlike the U.S., the U.K. already seems to be turning a corner on the Corona pandemic. By the turn of the year, the government reported rising numbers - with more than 200,000 Corona cases daily in some cases. Since the first of January, the seven-day incidence has been dropping again. Last Friday, only 104,000 Corona cases were counted. The hospitalization rate is decreasing slightly.
Despite the positive projections, experts caution that the pandemic is unpredictable and no long-term conclusions can be made. Lauren Ancel Meyers, Covid-19 modeler at the University of Texas at Austin, told the AP news agency that a great many people would continue to contract the coronavirus. Nevertheless, she said she, too, expects corona infection numbers to peak in the U.S. - as early as this week.
Jake Lemieux, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School, expressed similar sentiments. "I think it's going to be a difficult winter, but the peak [of the Omicron wave] seems to be in the coming weeks," he told the Harvard Gazette.
"In South Africa, the Omicron wave lasted a few weeks," Lemieux continued. "I would imagine that this wave in the U.S. will last a similar amount of time, maybe even a little longer." The withdrawal of the Omicron variant could signify a new phase in the Corona pandemic. It is also showing up in part at the local level. For example, Joseph Allen, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, sees Corona cases peaking in Boston.
U.S. cities report drop in Corona cases
On Saturday, Allen predicted a "sharp decline" in viral loads in sewage - a common way to study the spread of Corona in cities. Three days later, he again shared a graph of viral loads in U.S. East Coast city sewage: "It's going as expected." Another indicator of his theory is the official Corona numbers from the city of Boston. They have been dropping daily since early January. "Hopefully, this will bring relief to the health care system and health care workers in the Boston area," Allen adds. But hospitalizations are still on the rise in the city.
New York City appears to be past the announced peak of the pandemic. City officials have reported falling Corona case numbers since the beginning of the year. 32,000 cases averaged daily last week. A week earlier, there were nearly 10,000 more cases. Hospital admissions are also declining. The city warns, however, that cases could still be reported.
Chicago paints a similar picture: in the Windy City, Corona numbers have been falling since the turn of the year. Compared to the previous week, the average daily new Corona infections are down 11 percent. Hospitalizations are still on the rise, but not as much as they were in the final days of 2021.
US researchers: Omicron wave has not yet reached all states
In contrast, the U.S. capital reports a significant decrease in hospitalized Corona patients. Only 3.9 percent of those infected are hospitalized in Washington DC. That's still a large amount of hospitalizations due to the high numbers of Corona cases. However, the number of Corona cases in the U.S. capital have also declined sharply since the beginning of the year.
As recently as the summer of 2021, just under 20 percent of people infected with Corona in Washington DC were in the hospital - more than 30 percent in the midst of the first wave of corona in the spring of 2020.
The peaks of the Omicron waves "depend on the state," Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Assessment at the University of Washington, explained to U.S. magazine Fast Company. "Some states haven't started yet - Montana is yet to start the omicron wave. But we expect peak levels sometime between mid-January and mid-February."
Applying U.S. forecasts to the U.K. could mean that the island nation has also permanently passed the peak of Omicron cases. At the turn of the year, the total number of confirmed infections with the mutant rose to 246,780, with hospitals reporting massive staff shortages due to quarantine.
"We're seeing a significant drop in cases in the U.K., but I'd like to see them drop a lot more before we know if what happened in South Africa is going to happen here," Dr. Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at Britain's University of East Anglia, told the AP news agency.
Britain's housing minister, Michael Gove, told TV's Sky News, "We're moving toward a situation where we can say we can live with Covid." The Tory politician sees "better times" ahead.
Corona incidence in London on the decline since December
Dr. David Heymann, former head of the World Health Organization's Infectious Diseases Division, told the AP news agency that the U.K. is "closer than any other country to the end of the pandemic." He also said he sees Covid-19 slowly but surely becoming an endemic disease.
London appears to be some time ahead of the curve in the country. Government data show a decline in newly reported Corona cases in the U.K. capital - as early as Dec. 22. The seven-day incidence subsequently dropped from 24,000 new infections per 100,000 population to less than 20,000 on the fourth of January.
"We expect case numbers [in the U.K.] to fall in the next week, and in London perhaps already," U.K. epidemiologist Neil Ferguson said in a BBC interview in early January. Other regions could follow in up to three weeks. "An epidemic that reaches such high numbers cannot sustain those numbers forever."
Omicron cases in Germany with delayed reporting
Meanwhile, it is not yet possible to say when the peak of infections with Omicron in Germany will be reached. New Corona infections in the Federal Republic are reaching new highs. The Robert Koch Institute reports the total number of cases with the mutant for the first week of the year at 62,893 - an increase of over 20,000 cases from the previous week.
According to the RKI, it can be several days or weeks between the initial report of a corona case and its specification as an omicron variant. U.S. virologist Anthony Fauci still warned Tuesday, "With the extraordinary and unprecedented effectiveness of transmission, Omicron will eventually find almost everyone."
Image by Syaibatul Hamdi