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Omicron Spreads Fast, But Leads to Fewer Hospitalizations

New Covid cases posted a seven-day average of 206,577 on Sunday, 18% below the record high of Jan. 11.
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While the omicron Covid variant is spreading fast, the good news is that hospitalizations aren’t keeping pace.

New Covid cases registered a seven-day average of 206,577 on Sunday, 18% below the record high of Jan. 11, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bloomberg reports. But hospitalizations totaled just 8,964, 50% below their January zenith.

“We are seeing exponential increases in cases, and a much lower increase in hospitalizations and deaths,” Albert Ko, chair of the department of epidemiology and microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health, told Bloomberg.

“But we still have 65,000 people who are currently hospitalized because of Covid, and we are having already 1,500 deaths a day.”

U.K., South Africa and Scotland studies indicate that hospitalization risk from omicron is lower than from the delta strain, according to Bloomberg.

Omicron Protects Against Delta

Meanwhile, a new South African study suggests that omicron antibodies offer significant protection against earlier strains.

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For countries with rising rates of omicron, this could result in omicron almost entirely displacing delta as it becomes more common.

On Tuesday, the CDC lowered the percentage estimate of new COVID-19 infections caused by the omicron strain to 59% after initially pegging it at 73%.

"These results are consistent with omicron displacing the delta variant since it can elicit immunity which neutralizes Delta making re-infection with Delta less likely," the team at the Africa Health Research Institute wrote in their study summary. 

CDC: Vaccines Work

While more data is needed to fully understand how each vaccine works against omicron, the CDC made it clear that being vaccinated remains a smart choice when it comes to avoiding serious illness.

Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.

President Joe Biden has made it clear that while omicron spreads rapidly but that vaccinations and boosters generally protect you from severe illness.

"For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated -- for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm. But there's good news: If you're vaccinated and you have your booster shot, you're protected from severe illness and death," Biden said.