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Officials Warn Omicron Could Push US COVID Surge into Overdrive
By Staff, Agencies
Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, the United States is confronting another dark winter, with the red-hot Omicron variant threatening to further inflame an already dangerous surge of cases.
Hospitalizations jumped 45% over the last month, and cases have increased 40% to a seven-day average of 123,000 new infections a day.
Pfizer, one of the chief vaccine makers, on Friday predicted the pandemic would last until 2024 and said a lower-dose version of its vaccine for children ages 2 to 4 generated a weaker-than-expected immune response, which could delay authorization.
The Omicron variant appears to be far more transmissible than previous iterations of the virus and more agile in evading immune defenses, according to early studies.
Public health officials say it is likely to become the dominant variant in the country, following fast-moving spreads in countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom, and could strain hospitals still struggling to contain this summer's Delta variant surge.
Preliminary data in South Africa suggests Omicron leads to milder illness than the Delta variant, which is still driving much of the current wave; however, a British study released on Friday found no difference in severity between the two variants.
Either way, Omicron's extraordinary level of infectiousness means it could cause many additional deaths, the top US infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Friday.
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