Omicron wave reveals early indicators of easing in states hit early

A woman receives a Covid-19 test during a drive through the Covid-19 Testing Center as hundreds of cars and pedestrians queue to check out a Covid ahead of the Christmas holiday in North Bergen, New Jersey, the United States, December 22, 2021 -19 test as Omicron levels up across the land.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

After weeks of rising infections, the latest Covid surge is showing signs of slowing in a handful of areas earliest affected by the Omicron variant – offering a glimmer of hope that this wave is beginning to wane.

The U.S. has been reporting an average of nearly 800,000 cases a day for the past week, more than triple the previous record set last winter, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But in a handful of states and cities, particularly on the East Coast, cases appear to have plateaued or been declining in recent days.

In New York, the seven-day average of daily new cases has declined since hitting a record high of 85,000 a day on Jan. 9, according to Hopkins. Cases there doubled over a series of seven-day periods in late December and early January, but have fallen sharply to an average of 51,500 since last week. In New York City, average daily cases have fallen 31% over the past week, data from the state Health Department shows.

“There will come a time when we can say it’s all over,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference on Friday. “We’re not there yet but boy is it coming and we’ve been waiting a long time.”

New York is still reporting high levels of daily infections and ranks 15th among all states, down from the second-highest a few days ago, according to a CNBC analysis of population-adjusted case counts. New Jersey also recently fell out of the top five and is now 20th as the state saw a 32% drop in average daily cases over the past week.

At the end of December, Washington, DC had the highest number of Covid infections per capita than any other state, peaking at an average of 2,500 per day. That has since fallen to 1,700, the data shows.

And in neighboring Maryland, daily infections hit a pandemic high on Jan. 8 but are down 27% from a week ago.

In Illinois, said Dr. Khalilah Gates, associate dean of medical education at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said the stabilization in hospitalizations is “already kind of being felt.” On Sunday, the state reported a seven-day average of about 7,200 patients hospitalized with Covid, a 4% increase from the past week, a more modest increase than the 30% weekly growth reported, according to the Health Department was only observed two weeks ago.

“There’s not that influx that we had at the beginning of the climb and things are just a little bit around,” she said. “And if that goes on for five to seven straight days, I think you start to breathe a little easier and say, OK, like we kind of got through that climb, got through that climb too.”

Cases are also declining in South Africa and the UK, which are being closely watched as potential clues to what could be happening in the US, as they have both experienced previous spikes. Hopkins data shows average daily infections in South Africa are down 80% from where they peaked on December 17 and in the UK by 42% from that country’s peak on January 5, although there’s no guarantee the US will will follow the same path.

American populations have different vaccination rates, previous exposure to the virus, and levels of underlying health conditions, so Omicron’s trajectory could vary.

Certainly, cases are rising in most states, with 23 reporting record-high infection rates as of Sunday, data from Hopkins shows. And yet, U.S. cases are undercounted due to the availability of at-home testing kits, the results of which are not typically reported to state or federal agencies.

That increase is particularly visible in western states, where average daily cases are showing some signs of slowing but are still up 14% over the past week. This has led to a “jumping up” in Covid admissions at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Michael Daignault on CNBC Worldwide exchange Friday morning.

“We had this delta rise, it was a rise and then a plateau, and then the Omicron kind of lifted off this delta crest,” said Daignault, an emergency room physician at the hospital.

Caused the increase New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday to issue emergency orders to combat the new wave of cases.

A steep peak

Experts predict the Omicron wave will fall almost as fast as it has risen, leaving the US with relatively few Covid cases sometime in February or March, although cities are likely to reach that point sooner.

While the threat of a new variant could always change projections, it’s possible Americans could see some breathing space as a large segment of the population retains some immunity to the recent infection.

“Sometime in early March, mid-March, we should be in a very good position,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “April, May, we will have reported very few cases.”

However, how quickly cases drop after they have peaked depends on a community’s adherence to public health measures after that period.

“It depends on how high the peak is. And whether people, when they see case numbers going down, kind of ease things up,” said Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

hospitals overwhelmed

There is a growing body of evidence that the Omicron variant makes people more contagious, but not as sick as the Delta variant.

Still, there is a record 156,000 Americans in US hospitals with Covid, according to a seven-day moving average of HHS data, up 17% over the past week. A significant proportion of Covid hospitalizations appear to be from people admitted for other reasons who test positive for the virus once in a facility.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told CNBC: “screeching in the streetlast week that about half of the city’s hospital admissions are people who were diagnosed after being admitted for something else. NY Governor Hochul on Sunday reported that 42% of hospitalized Covid patients in New York were admitted for something other than the virus.

Even if the omicron variant causes less severe diseases, the hospitals can still be burdened due to the high patient volume in combination staff shortage.

“The rate-limiting factors are still the incredible speed of this variant, the number of patients who come into the ER or require an admission,” said Daignault, the LA physician. “And even if we do peak in late January, you still have the back end of that spike for the rest of February.”

Daignault suspects that many of the intensive care patients at his hospital are currently suffering from the more virulent Delta variant. Delta cases could also contribute to a spike in LA’s daily Covid deaths, he said. Still, the CDC recently estimated omicron now accounts for 95% of new cases.

Nationwide, cases and hospitalizations have passed the peak of last winter, but there are about 87% as many patients in intensive care with Covid. The US is reporting a seven-day average of nearly 1,800 Covid deaths a day, according to Hopkins data, which, while rising, is about half the peaks recorded around this time last year, before vaccines were widely available.

While vaccines, particularly without a booster dose, appear to offer less protection against infection by Omicron, they appear to withstand the serious illnesses and deaths that they were originally designed to prevent. While this means that vaccinated people may be contributing to the rise in cases, in reality it is the unvaccinated who are driving hospital admissions.

But the high transmissibility means many healthcare workers have contracted the virus and are being forced to isolate, pushing some hospitals to their limits even sooner.

Although a peak in cases provides some light at the end of the tunnel of this surge, hospitalizations and deaths have lagged the rise in infections. The full impact of the Omicron spike remains to be seen.

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WATCH: Signs Covid is peaking in the North East

Tricks to cope with Covid easing anxiousness

Commuters, some with PPE, on a busy London Underground.

TOLGA AKMEN | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – Covid rules have been relaxed in many places around the world, including England and parts of the US, with rules on wearing masks, social distancing and the number of people who can meet both indoors and outdoors are relaxed.

While this relaxation of measures has been hailed by many, especially younger people, after nearly 16 months of on-off lockdown, many others are concerned about the changes, especially those with underlying medical conditions and health problems.

Almost all restrictions were lifted in England on Monday, dubbed “Freedom Day” (although it was delayed by a month due to rising Covid cases as a result of the Delta variant). Meanwhile in the USA The CDC relaxed its Covid guidelines on masks for fully vaccinated people on May 13th, said they did not need to use them or keep them 6 feet apart “except as required by state, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidelines.”

Many experts criticized this relaxation of the rules, saying it comes at a time when the infection rate is extremely high, especially among those under 30. In the meantime, many individuals have expressed concern for their own safety and the safety of others, especially those who may be clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients or the disabled.

Macmillan Cancer Support was one of many charities that criticized the move to open it up. and offers advice and support to all those affected. It tweeted Monday that “despite the easing of restrictions, 1 in 5 cancer patients in England today feels unable to return to a normal life.”

Tim Spector is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London and directs it Study on Zoe Covid Symptoms, an ongoing UK study that will allow the public to enter their Covid symptoms into an app when scientists can then analyze the data.

On Monday Spector and his team published seven tips to help people make the most of their newfound freedoms. Here are their simple tips:

1) Respect others

Be aware of personal space and choice, said Spector on Monday as Freedom Day broke in England. “Some people may not be willing to hug, kiss, shake hands, or distance themselves from one another. Don’t assume what people are comfortable with. Instead, ask them questions and respect their personal decisions. “

This is especially true with the choice to wear face masks, noted Spector. the subject became something of a battlefield in Britain and the United States

“Respect the choices made by people with limited government directives about where and when we should wear face covering. If someone feels more secure by wearing a mask, they have the right to keep wearing one, ”Spector said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to use common sense and courtesy when it comes to masks and advised them to wear them in crowded rooms. In the US a number of state and local officials are official to have re-introduced rules for wearing masks.

2) socializing outdoors

Socializing outdoors remains one of the best ways to reduce Covid-19 transmission, according to experts, and it’s much easier now in the summer. England and Wales no longer have rules limiting the number of people who can attend outdoor gatherings, but restrictions still apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Fresh air means that very small droplets and aerosol particles containing infectious viruses cannot hang around and disperse quickly, so outdoor spaces are the best places to be with friends and family,” said Spector.

3) Wear a mask in poorly ventilated or confined areas

In crowded, poorly ventilated places such as subways or busy buses or trains, particles in the air can multiply quickly.

So if you’re in a confined space, Spector recommends continuing to wear face-covering when possible. Some airlines have already announced that they will continue to introduce mandatory masking.

4) Continue to practice good hygiene

Compliance with basic, good hygiene was one of the most important recommendations to the public during the Covid pandemic. Virus droplets can be transmitted from your hands to your face, so avoid touching your mouth and eyes if you’ve been out and about and haven’t washed your hands in a while, noted Spector and the Zoe Covid study team.

Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds, but if you don’t have access to soap and water, use an available hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.

5) Get your second dose of vaccine

6) Know all of the Covid symptoms

You could easily be forgiven for not knowing the main symptoms to look out for with Covid as government advice changed during the public health crisis. The symptoms were also updated when new variants appeared.

The “classic” Covid symptoms were persistent cough, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, and a sore throat (and variations on that subject), but analysis of the Zoe Covid study identified new common symptoms.

The main symptoms extracted from the data from the Zoe-Covid study in the 30 days ending July 14th are after two doses of a vaccine:

  1. Runny nose
  2. a headache
  3. Sneeze
  4. Sore throat
  5. Loss of smell

For the unvaccinated, the top 5 symptoms are:

  1. a headache
  2. Sore throat
  3. Runny nose
  4. fever
  5. Persistent cough

7) Keep a record of all Covid symptoms you get

The Zoe Covid study team recommends the UK public to keep logging all symptoms with their ongoing study, arguing that it is more important than ever given the easing of restrictions.

“By continuing to log your symptoms, your contributions can help us stay on the front lines to discover the top current symptoms that indicate COVID infection before and after vaccination,” it reads. The data can also help experts figure out how effective the vaccines are in the long term and could also help determine whether or not booster vaccines are needed in the fall.

Former HHS official applauds ‘data-driven’ easing of CDC masks steering

Former health and social worker Dr. Mario Ramirez cheered President Joe BidenSupporting the masking of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Updates on Tuesday.

“I think the president made the right point today, namely that today’s guidance is not about politics, but rather a data-driven recommendation based on how these vaccines behave in the wild,” said Ramirez.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people can exercise and participate small outdoor gatherings to wear without a face mask. Biden The new recommendations underscore the progress the US has made in the fight against Covid.

Ramirez, a former HHS Pandemic and Emerging Threat Coordinator in the Office of Global Affairs, told CNBCs “The News with Shepard Smith” While the US is leaning in the right direction on vaccination, officials must run an “persistent messaging campaign” to convince skeptical Americans to vaccinate.

In the United States, 232 million vaccine shots were reportedly put into guns CDC data43% of the total population received at least one dose, and nearly 20% of the country is fully vaccinated.

Dr. Peter Hotez told “The News with Shepard Smith” on Friday that daylight saving time might be in the United States Return to pre-Covid-19 normal when 75% to 80% of the US population is vaccinated.

Ramirez said improving vaccine convenience will be another helpful step in getting more Americans vaccinated.

“One of the things we’re looking forward to this fall is whether vaccine makers can actually pool a flu and a coronavirus vaccine together. If we can, it will go a long way toward improving vaccine uptake,” he said Ramirez.

Lengthy-haulers report signs easing after getting shot

An employee in Schwaz, Austria, creates a syringe and container with the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine.

JOHANN GRODER | AFP | Getty Images

Sheri Paulson struggled to get out of bed months after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

The 53-year-old North Dakota resident and family contracted the disease after attending a wedding in August. Paulson, an endurance athlete who runs a farm outside of Fargo, later suffered from fatigue, brain fog, and an increased heart rate, which led doctors to advise her to stop exercising and take cardiac rehabilitation.

It was about five days before she got her first Pfizer shot in February that made her feel better.

“Suddenly I stopped napping after cardiac rehabilitation,” said Paulson, who also has multiple sclerosis. “And then I started walking my dog. Then I thought, ‘Hmm, I think I’ll run a little too.'”

Some people who have had persistent and often debilitating symptoms months after their first battle with the virus say they find relief after vaccination, according to enigmatic health experts. Survivor Corps, a patient advocacy group for people with so-called long covid, recently surveyed nearly 900 members and found that 41% reported slight relief for full recovery shortly after the shot.

The World Health Organization estimates that around 1 in 10 Covid patients have persistent illness 12 weeks after the virus emerged. University of Washington researchers released data in February that showed a third of patients reported persistent symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping that lasted for up to nine months.

Symptoms of long-term Covid, which researchers now refer to as post-acute consequences of Covid-19 or PASC, can develop well after the initial infection, and the severity can range from mild to incompetent, according to health officials and health experts.

One of largest global studies Released in early January, it found that many people who suffer from persistent illness after infection cannot return to work at full capacity six months later. The study interviewed more than 3,700 people aged 18 to 80 from 56 countries.

Diana Berrent, who founded the Survivor Corps a little over a year ago, suffered from long-term Covid for months before most of her symptoms went away on their own last year. She said some members of the organization were initially reluctant to get vaccinated. Members feared the reported side effects of the gunshots would make their symptoms worse, she said.

“We really expected the worst,” she told CNBC. “You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out that some people were starting to get better because it was just so outside of what we expected.”

You are not alone. Facebook and Twitter are full of stories from people who testify, to their own surprise, that their symptoms are alleviated or even gone after receiving a Covid vaccine.

Not well understood

The cause of the persistent symptoms is not yet well understood by health professionals.

Most of the studies have focused in people with a serious or fatal illness, not people who have recovered but still report persistent side effects, the so-called long distance drivers. The virus is also relatively new – it was discovered a little over a year ago – so there are no long-term data on it.

The National Institutes of Health have started an initiative in February long to study Covid and identify the causes and possible treatments. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said at the time that the researchers hope to understand the underlying biological cause of the persistent symptoms.

Doctors also don’t know why some long-term Covid patients say they feel better after being immunized. Experts say this could provide new insight into what’s behind the persistent symptoms, as well as potential new treatments.

Sheri Paulson with her dog Jazzy in North Dakota.

Courtesy Sheri Paulson

The virus reservoir

One theory, according to Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki, is that the vaccines help clear what is known as the “reservoir of virus,” where the virus may still linger in the body and cause chronic symptoms. The robust immune response induced by the vaccines can help clear any leftover viruses and clear symptoms, she said.

“That’s probably the easiest way,” she said, “the vaccines could help people.” “If that is the case, long covid will cure people and this is wonderful news.”

Iwasaki also hypothesized that Covid could cause an autoimmune disease in which immune cells mistakenly damage the body. If so, the vaccines could provide “temporary relief” of symptoms and patients may have to come back for another dose, she said.

There are no long-term data on how people feel after the vaccine, she said. “But I suspect that if the second [hypothesis] is true then there will be no lasting relief. “

The symptoms returned

Darren Brown, a 37-year-old physical therapist from the UK, said his symptoms returned a few weeks after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

Brown suffered from fatigue, restless sleep, and incoordination for several months. He said his long Covid symptoms had completely improved about three weeks after his first shot. But just days before his second dose, he felt his symptoms return.

“I noticed that I was getting tired again,” he said. “The level I thought I could have pushed myself from, the threshold, it felt like it had been reduced and I was left with nothing afterwards in me.” Return to work. I just had to go to bed after a day at work. “

He’s been feeling better since his second dose, but fears his symptoms may come back.

“I’m very careful that this won’t last long,” he said. “But I’m also really overwhelmed with the excitement that it’s being lifted for now.”

Paulson, the North Dakota farmer, said she still had some symptoms but the fatigue and brain fog had gone since she got her second shot on March 18. She added that she was grateful that she was fine, especially since many others died from the disease.

“There are always things that put life into perspective for you and get you a little on your heels,” said Paulson, who also works for a Massachusetts-based biotech company.

Clinical trials

While the reports of long-term Covid symptom relief might be good news, they’re still just anecdotal, said Dr. Paul Offit, a voting member of the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products.

There has yet to be a formal study to see if the vaccines actually help, he said.

Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said he was skeptical but “open-minded”.

“This is an answerable question and I hope we have decent data to confirm or disprove it,” said Bogoch. “Otherwise it’s just a few collective anecdotes”

Iwasaki told CNBC that she plans to work with Survivor Corps to conduct a study to analyze blood samples from long Covid patients before and after vaccination. She said he hoped they can explain the relief some patients experience after vaccination.

The study is still in the planning stages, she said, adding, “We’re working very hard to get this off the ground.”

“I’ve received numerous emails and DMs on Twitter about patient experiences … and I hear from people every day who are better off getting the vaccine,” she said. “From my point of view, it looks encouraging.”

–CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.