Because the majority of those infected won’t feel sick or get tested, the researchers warned that the total infections will be underreported, predicting that only about 400,000 new cases will be reported every day as opposed to the more than a million.
Murray said that while the forecast may be pessimistic, it is within the area of possibility based on the current information scientists have on the Omicron variant, which now accounts for 73 percent of new cases in the US.
The nation is currently averaging 148,384 new cases daily over the past week, a 23 percent increase from two weeks ago. Confirmed Omicron cases increased by 19 percent day-over-day, up to 1,781 as of Wednesday morning from 1,485 on Tuesday, but that number represents only the tiny fraction of infections that are DNA sequenced.
Deaths have stabilized, with America averaging around 1,300 deaths per day – a steady figure for the past week and down slightly from two weeks ago. Encouraging new data from a leaked British study suggests that Omicron infections are less severe than prior variants.
‘We’re dealing with a serious enough situation now that if there’s an unvaccinated person, I would say, ‘I’m very sorry, but not this time. Maybe another time when this is all over,” said Fauci in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday night.
The warning comes as Omicron soars in the US and pushes Europe to the brink of fresh lockdowns, with Wales the latest to announce harsh new restrictions set to kick in on Boxing Day, a British holiday celebrated the day after Christmas.
The UK Health Security Agency say most people are likely to have a mild illness with less serious symptoms which is in part due to the large numbers of vaccinated and previously infected people – but also possibly because Omicron is milder.
The tentative findings by Britain’s equivalent of the CDC are due to be published before Christmas and do not mean that the the threat of the variant can be ignored, as it is so transmissible that large numbers are set to end up in hospital.
Despite the rising number of cases, particularly in New York where cases overall have risen 102% in the state over the past two weeks, the president of one of New York’s largest hospital systems has said that the Omicron surge is not straining his facilities.
He noted that there are now 460 patients in its 23 hospitals, which is less than 10 percent of its overall capacity. But at the same time last year, during COVID’s second wave, the hospital system saw nearly 1,000 cases. And during the first wave, it had 3,500 patients suffering severe side effects from the virus.
Meanwhile, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky appeared to contradict President Joe Biden by insisting that the current surge in cases was expected, after Biden said on Tuesday that ‘the Omicron virus spread even more rapidly than anybody thought.’
‘We expected this, because we have seen the doubling times of this virus in other countries have been really rapid and that’s what we’re seeing here in the United States,’ Walensky insisted in an interview with the Today Show on Wednesday.