The new omicron variant of the coronavirus threatens to spoil the holidays in the United States and overwhelm hospitals, which have not yet recovered from the chaos caused by the delta variant.
The White House insisted Wednesday that there is no need to order a mass lockdown, as vaccines are fully available and clearly protect against severe COVID-19 symptoms, but even if omicron causes milder symptoms than delta, it appears to be able to evade vaccines and poses a particular threat to the elderly and people with weak immune systems.
“Not only does the threat of the delta continue, but it accelerates and the omicron comes to us,” said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who monitors the progress of the omicron for Harvard Medical School.
“This is extremely alarming, because the hospitals are overcrowded and the medical staff is exhausted,” he added.
Most likely, Dr. Lemieux and other experts told a press conference Tuesday, the omicron surge has already started in the United States and is overwhelming the scientific community’s ability to track it.
Based on specimens collected last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that omicron makes up 3% of viruses with nationally identified genetic sequences. The percentages vary from region to region: the highest is 13% and corresponds to the New York / New Jersey area.
However, Harvard experts emphasized that the true percentages are likely much higher, since the omicron is expanding much faster than the scientific capacity to monitor it.
Worldwide, more than 75 countries have reported confirmed cases of omicron. In the United States, 36 states have detected the variant and it is expanding mainly in the northeast and the central-west.
The two states with the highest percentages per 100,000 people are New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont.
Several universities are abruptly canceling face-to-face classes just around final exam time.
The American professional basketball league, the NBA, has postponed games, while the NFL American football league suffered its worst two-day outbreak of the virus since the start of the pandemic by having several infected players.
At the international level, the president of the European Union predicted that the omicron will be the predominant variant in a month, declaring “again, we will have a Christmas overshadowed by the pandemic.”
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