Some bright lights in the dark, Omicron winter.

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 COVID-19 infections in the US (New York Times).

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. 

Deaths and hospitalizations occur at a lower rate with omicron in the US as compared to delta, but the overall numbers are much higher. (CDC)

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 Dubai showing reduction in omicron infections with booster vaccination.

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. 

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

6 thoughts on “Some bright lights in the dark, Omicron winter.

  1. Thank you for alll your updates

    Is there any info on long haul symptoms with omicron?

    How would you compare omicron to the flu in terms of hospitalizations and death?

    Really appreciate you sharing all this info throughout the pandemic

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  2. Dr. Baker, Wally Duff here. I am a friend of Dick Drager and really enjoy your efforts to keep me, my family, and patients informed about COVID. Many of us continue to use a nasopharyngeal rinse (1%) of povidone iodine along with vaccination and it seems to work. I continue to be stumped why povidone iodine isn’t used more often.That said, my other problem are the homeless. Why hasn’t COVID decimated that population? They check every box for risk but if anything, there are now more homeless. It is puzzling. Wallace Duff, M.D.  

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  3. I wonder what the data would be for previously infected and recovered individuals, as well as for those who were infected and received 2 mRNA vaccine doses but did not get a booster. The other data provided by CDC last week would suggest that both groups would have protection similar to at least the 2 dose vaccinated people.

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  4. Why is there no mention of natural immunity and only the vaccination as prevention? My family had COVID for the second time we are not vaccinated and I believe our symptoms were mild the second time because we already had natural immunity.
    I’m watching Dopesick right now and I see a lot of parallels happening with OxyCotin and COVID vaccine.

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    1. If you get infected with COVID-19 multiple times, then you likely will get immunity. I am happy that no one in your family was seriously ill with COVID, but obviously that is not the case with many people. You would probably feel differently if you had developed long COVID or died.

      If you see parallels between Dopesick and COVID vaccines, then I am think you are mis informed about both topics. JB

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