Denmark expects omicron to overhaul delta this week, a warning for U.S.

People wait on the 14th

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Denmark expects Omicron’s Covid-19 variant to overtake Delta within a week as the number of cases of the new strain increases doubles every two days, according to the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, which conducts infectious disease surveillance for the Scandinavian nation.

Troels Lillebaek, chairman of the Danish Committee for the Evaluation of Covid Variants, told CNBC on Tuesday that Omicron now accounts for at least 10% of sequenced Covid cases, a rapid jump since the end of November when there was not a single sequenced Omicron in Denmark Case gave.

“What we are seeing in Denmark is a very steep increase in the number of omicron cases every day, we see a doubling every other day,” said Lillebaek, who is also director of one of Statens’ surveillance laboratories and a professor at the University of Copenhagen. “And within a week, omicron will take over and be the dominant variant in Denmark.”

Lillebaek said 75% of Omicron patients in the country are fully immunized with a two-dose vaccine, while 9% of Omicron-positive patients received a booster dose.

“We believe that what we see in Denmark is not a particularly Danish phenomenon,” said Lillebaek. “We can’t see any reason why it should be special for Denmark and now we’re getting the same reports, very heavy reports from the UK”

The rapid spread of Omicron in Denmark, where 80% of the population is fully vaccinated, is a dire sign for the US, where only 61% of the population is fully vaccinated and tens of millions of people have still not received a single vaccination. Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the US had just weeks to take action to stem a wave of omicron infections.

“We’re going to get into trouble,” Lawler told CNBC on Monday. “We already have our hands full with Delta. What we’re likely to get is the triple blow from Delta, Omicron and seasonal influenza.”

Scientists and public health officials are still investigating whether Omicron causes milder or more severe illness compared to Delta. According to the Statens Serum Institute, around 99% of Omicron patients in Denmark have so far not been hospitalized. However, hospital admissions are expected to jump over the holidays.

According to Lillebaek, Denmark expects in the worst case 500 new Covid hospital admissions every day around Christmas in a country with 5.9 million inhabitants. According to the Danish government, a total of 508 people with Covid were in hospital on Wednesday.

“There will be many [hospital] “Admissions and the concern now is that many hospital workers will test positive and have to go home in isolation,” said Lillebaek. “There will always be a part of the population at risk. Some get chemotherapy, some have an immunodeficiency, maybe biological treatment for rheumatism.”

The World Health Organization on Tuesday warned countries against dismissing Omicron as a mild variant. Omicron is spreading faster than any other prior virus strain, according to the WHO.

While there hasn’t been an explosion of Omicron cases in the US like there was in Denmark, the variant is rapidly gaining ground across America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that omicron accounted for 2.9% of the sequenced Covid cases last week, up from 0.4% the previous week. Delta makes up about 97% of the sequences of Covid cases, according to the CDC.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that Omicron could account for up to 13% of cases in states like New York and New Jersey.

“Unless it’s dramatically milder and less prone to hospitalization, it is very likely that it will only cause a sheer number of infections in which you’ll experience enough hospitalizations to place a significant strain or even overflow on health systems,” Lawler said.

The US can’t prevent transmission of the virus, Lawler said, but there are steps the nation can take to limit hospital stays. This includes vaccinating everyone in the country over 5 years old and making sure everyone eligible for a booster gets one.

Pfizer and BioNTech released preliminary data last week showing that Omicron significantly reduced the two-dose vaccine’s ability to fight off infection. However, two doses can still prevent serious illness, the companies said. Booster recordings offer considerable protection against infection, according to the laboratory data.

Lawler said mitigation measures like wearing masks in public places indoors and restricting gatherings indoors, as well as close contact, can also help contain the tide. “You know, there is an old saying – ‘Hope is not a plan.’ Right? ”Said Lawler.

However, the reintroduction of mitigation measures in the US has proven politically controversial. While new York and California Have reintroduced the mask requirement, Texas and Florida have banned local governments and school authorities from implementing them. Colorado Governor Jared Polis said Friday that “the emergency is over” and said mask requirements are no longer required due to the wide availability of vaccines.

At the federal level, President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements are for Federal contractor and Private company are currently blocked by federal courts. The president has ruled out lockdownsRelying instead on vaccination and widespread testing that winter.

Denmark, on the other hand, has implemented a number of measures to contain the wave of infection. The national government is encouraging people to work from home and elementary school children will attend classes virtually through January 4th. Masks are required in most indoor public spaces. Night clubs are closed while bars, restaurants and cafes close their doors at midnight. People need to show Covid passports to prove they are vaccinated, recently received a negative test, or have recovered from a previous infection to enter many businesses.

The United Kingdom has also sounded the alarm and his Level 4 Covid threat rating one step below the highest warning on Sunday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday Omicron resulted in hospital admissions and confirmed the first death in the UK from the variant. He warned that Great Britain is facing a “tidal wave” of omicron infections.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC on Monday that Omicron is spreading at a “phenomenal rate”, with cases doubling every few days. England strongly encourages people to work from home, mandating masks in most indoor public spaces and requiring proof of two doses of vaccine before entering nightclubs and large events.

On Wednesday, the UK reported the highest number of new Covid cases since the pandemic began.

CDC director Rochelle Walenksy said she doesn’t think the US will follow the same timetable as the UK. on omikron. “I don’t expect this to be on the same time horizon as the UK and we are continuing to monitor the cases and will look at this carefully,” she said during a Covid update at the White House on Friday.

However, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNBC last week that Omicron will soon overtake the delta in the US.

“It is only a matter of time before omicron becomes dominant here and I think that could happen relatively quickly,” Osterholm told CNBC last week.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Emergency Health Program, said Tuesday that countries must start preparing their health systems for Omicron now. He said governments should ensure that their health systems have adequate staffing, triage and oxygen supplies.

“Health systems are weaker today than they were a year ago,” said Ryan. “So unfortunately you can sometimes get up after the first hit, but it’s very difficult to get up after the second.”