As hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with adult patients sick and dying from COVID-19, we are finally seeing several pieces of information that suggest the U.S. is moving forward from this current wave. In addition, the CDC is finally providing data directly evaluating the clinical illness with Omicron in the U.S. population, and it provides insights into the management of this disease.
Overall numbers of infections with Omicron have finally started to fall in the U.S. The decline has been steepest in areas on the East Coast where the infection first happened, but it’s now spreading to other areas of the country. Hospitalizations and ER visits for COVID-19 are also beginning to decrease on the East Coast, which is good news for these health care facilities.
The CDC has now documented that severe illness from Omicron occurs in a lower percentage of individuals in the U.S. as compared to prior COVID variants including Delta. This correlates with data from other countries, particularly South Africa. However, the number of hospitalizations is still overall higher than it was with Delta because of the far greater number of infections.
Data from several countries has now validated the ability of mRNA booster shots to reduce symptomatic infections. As soon as seven days after the third dose of vaccine, infections are cut in half. This also suggests that Omicron infections will drop more quickly in highly vaccinated populations.
Not surprisingly, deaths remain consistent with over 2,000 a day in the U.S. and will take several weeks before they begin to drop, likely in early February. Deaths lag behind other markers of COVID and are highly dependent on early treatment of infected individuals. This is difficult to accomplish in surges when hospitals are crowded.
The most remarkable data from the CDC shows that almost all deaths from Omicron infections can be prevented by vaccination.
As compared with unvaccinated individuals, death rates are reduced 93% in individuals with two mRNA vaccinations, and 99% in those who also received a booster dose!
This means that if all adults in the U.S. were vaccinated and boosted, we might have only have 20 people dying from COVID every day instead of 2,000.