US surgeon general warns that Omicron wave has not peaked

The surgeon general said “the next few weeks will be tough”

Graig Graziosi
Monday 17 January 2022 17:51
US yet to reach 'national peak' of Omicron wave, says Surgeon General
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Health experts are warning that despite earlier estimates, the peak of Omicron infections in the US is likely still to come.

According to The New York Times, US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy said that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus will continue to spread, peaking sometime in the next few weeks.

He noted during an interview on CNN's State of the Union that due to the size of the US, the virus will peak in different places at different times, saying "we shouldn't expect a national peak in the coming days”.

In a bit of good news, the surgeon general said that cases in the Northeast, particularly in New York and New Jersey, appear to be plateauing and will likely soon begin to drop.

While some states are beginning to see some respite from the virus, others are likely on the precipice of a dark few weeks of infection and death.

Dr Murthy said that the next several weeks would be difficult for people in many parts of the country, particularly as hospital staff continue to battle overcrowding, under-staffing, and overall burnout from the pandemic.

"The next few weeks will be tough," he said.

Hospitals across the US are already reporting bed shortages, and health experts fear those shortages will only get worse as the virus continues to spread over the next several weeks.

Quentin Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, told CBS News that hospitals in the city have been at capacity since the holiday season began.

“We have seen incredible challenges in our health care network, even getting employees that are working in our EMS services, fire department and in public safety,” Mr Lucas said. “It is a substantial concern.”

Americans were encouraged to go get tested if they feared they had been infected, but ongoing supply chain issues caused in part by the pandemic made it difficult to find tests, and made those that were prohibitively expensive in some cases.

In response to the shortage, Joe Biden announced his administration planned to distribute a billion rapid-at-home tests to American families who request them. Each household is entitled to claim up to four free tests, which will be delivered to their homes.

The administration also passed legislation requiring health insurance companies to cover up to eight at-home tests each month for their customers.

However, the decision to mail out free tests came months after the Omicron variant was identified as a threat, and only after the idea was mocked by White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Even without the supply line slowdowns, it would takes weeks for most Americans to receive their tests.

Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser for former President Donald Trump, criticised the effort, explaining that "we've ordered too few testing kits, so our testing capacity has continued to lag behind each wave”.

"It's too little and too late, but noteworthy for the next wave," he said.

The Omicron variant is continuing to cause hospitalisation and death. While breakthrough cases have become more common, the overwhelming majority of the sick and dying are those who have not taken the coronavirus vaccine.

Health experts have warned that the best defense against not just the Omicron variant, but against the rise of future variants, is to get vaccinated.

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