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What to Expect from COVID19 in the Upcoming Weeks

On January 15, the United States was averaging 805,869 COVID19 cases per day, 154,452 average hospitalizations per day, and 1,984 COVID19 related deaths per day. The actual case count is much higher because at least 75% of SARS-CoV-2 infections go unreported. Approximately 1 in 100 Americans are becoming infected every day.

South Africa and the United Kingdom have witnessed sharp declines in Omicron cases following a one-month peak in Omicron cases, but it is important to realize that the incidence of new cases in South Africa remains 25-fold higher than their pre-Omicron baseline.

The news media has started to optimistically report that a similar trend may be starting to occur in the United States. COVID19 cases appear to have peaked in New York and New Jersey and plateaued in California.  However, nationwide, COVID19 cases continue to increase almost daily.

Hospitalizations lag behind COVID19 cases by at least one week. The United States now has more people hospitalized with COVID19 than at any other time since the beginning of the pandemic. Even after cases start to plateau, hospitalizations will continue to increase for a while, compounding the problem with severe shortages of health care workers.

Deaths follow hospitalizations and are already shockingly high considering the ready availability of vaccines. Nearly everyone dying from COVID19 is unvaccinated or high risk and not boosted. Over the next few weeks, deaths will continue to increase across the country.

As Dr. Ashish Jha explained in a Tweet on January 16, it is important to remember that even after COVID19 cases peak, there will be just as many new infections occurring during the down slope as occurred during the up slope. Many people remain at high risk of infection and serious illness. Given these facts, the United States probably will experience several more weeks of rampant infections and many more weeks of high hospitalizations and deaths. Large gatherings during the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl and then students partying during Spring Break will likely exacerbate a bad situation even more.

On January 14, Dr. Tom Frieden tweeted, “We don’t know what’s coming next with Covid. Omicron could be the last big surge before it turns into a more manageable disease. Or Delta could re-emerge as Omicron wanes. Or there might be yet another variant that is both extremely transmissible AND highly virulent.”

Let’s hope SARS-CoV-2 does not mutate into another highly transmissible, immunity evading variant that causes more severe disease than Omicron.

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