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US Coronavirus: Nation could be in store for ‘grim start’ to new year, experts warn, as two variants of Covid-19 spread

Travel to the airport before Christmas nearly doubled from a year ago, according to Transportation Security Administration data, with more than 2 million people screened every day from December 16 to 18. And indoor gatherings of friends and family could ultimately infect more people at higher risk of complications from Covid-19.

Collins suggested that the impact of this level of spread on an already stressed healthcare system remains uncertain.

“The big question is whether these millions of cases will be sick enough to require health care and especially hospitalization?” Collins said on CBS ‘”Face the Nation” Sunday, his last day as director of the NIH.

Hospitalizations for Covid-19 have tended to increase over the past month as medical facilities in parts of the country have been inundated with patients infected with the Delta variant. Now, the presence of Omicron – which scientists believe to be more contagious although most cases so far appear to be mild – may push some strained health systems to the brink.
“It is very likely that in some parts of the country we are going to see significant stress on the hospital system as well as on healthcare workers who are wearing themselves out from all of this,” Dr Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, noting that a more transmissible form of Covid-19, like Omicron, will have a greater impact on the tens of millions of Americans who have not been vaccinated.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said travel and gatherings for Christmas and New Years can be done safely among those who are vaccinated, and that booster shots in those who are vaccinated. arms of vaccinated Americans remain paramount in increasing the antibody response.

“If we are to manage Omicron successfully, people who are vaccinated must be stimulated,” Fauci told NBC on Sunday.

Recent data demonstrates the potential dangers of staying unvaccinated, including a 10 times greater risk of positive tests and 20 times greater risk of dying from Covid-19 than those vaccinated and boosted, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States through October.

Omicron 'will take over' this winter, and Fauci says Americans should prepare for
President Joe Biden is due to meet his Covid-19 response team on Monday. He will address the nation on Tuesday regarding the latest developments with Omicron and issue another “stern warning about what winter will be like for Americans who choose to remain unvaccinated,” the White House said.

Omicron will lead to an increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks, but those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated will have a “big difference” in experience, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told presenter Tony Dokoupil on “CBS Mornings” on Monday. .

“In the coming weeks, Tony, we’re going to see a spike in cases. And that’s because Omicron is incredibly transmissible, and you know, we have to prepare for it,” Murthy said. “But there will be a distinct difference between the experience of those who are vaccinated and boosted versus those who are not.”

People who get maximum protection from vaccines and boosters will not get an infection, or if they do, they will most likely be mild, Murthy said.

States respond to epidemics

Omicron was identified in at least 45 U.S. states on Sunday, according to state officials, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. And with Delta still present, cases in some areas are increasing.
New York – which was among the hardest-hit states at the start of the pandemic – set a new single-day Covid-19 case record for a third day in a row on Sunday, according to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office.
Long queues for Covid-19 tests as Omicron variant looms

There is typically a lag of around three weeks behind trends in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to a CNN Health analysis, but officials hope the state will be in a more favorable position than last year. .

“We are not in March 2020, we are not helpless,” Hochul said. “We have the tools to protect ourselves and the vulnerable loved ones in our families: get vaccinated, get a booster and wear a mask indoors or at large gatherings. Don’t take any chances during the winter rush. “

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday that the state is bracing for a winter surge and hopes to tackle the spread of Covid-19 with measures including testing state-issued home care and flexible hospital beds. Bringing in health care workers from other states has also been essential, Sununu said.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan predicted that the state will experience “possibly the worst increase we have seen in our hospitals throughout the crisis” in the next three to five weeks, telling “Fox News Sunday” that officials “are trying to do everything we can get the last 9.2% of our population vaccinated.”

Blockages are not being considered, he said, and denounced a return to distance learning in schools since the protocols currently in place should be sufficient.

People line up for Covid-19 tests in Brooklyn, New York on December 17, 2021.

Schools and sports are changing

The tenor of the conversation around Covid-19 may change depending on whether hospitalizations increase or level off in the coming weeks. Yet some universities and sports leagues are already working to limit any possible spread.

Citing “uncertainty” around the Omicron variant, Stanford University has announced that it will switch to online teaching for the first two weeks of the next winter term, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 3.

Harvard University is also switching to distance learning for the first three weeks of classes in January, saying in an open letter that the move was “prompted by the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as by the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. “

These are the latest postponements and cancellations of Covid-19 in professional and college sports
The growing number of Covid-19 cases has forced postponements in several major sports leagues. On Sunday, seven NHL teams were temporarily closed and the league and its players union announced that games until Christmas that required cross-border travel between the United States and Canada will be postponed.

Five NBA games have been postponed as several teams in the league have many players under Covid-19 health and safety protocols. More than a dozen NCAA men’s basketball games have been called off or postponed.

And the NFL has delayed three of its Sunday games and updated its Covid-19 testing procedures, which will no longer call for testing asymptomatic and fully vaccinated players, coaches and other staff in close contact with players. All individuals will be screened for symptoms of Covid-19 before entering the team’s facilities, according to a copy of protocols obtained by CNN.

Moderna: data suggests larger booster dose increases antibodies

Biotech company Moderna announced on Monday that preliminary data suggests its half-dose booster increased antibody levels against Omicron from levels seen when a fully vaccinated person does not receive a booster – but one dose more large booster even increases antibody levels. Following.

Currently, Moderna booster is given at a dose of 50 micrograms. The company’s announcement noted that its booster dose of 50 micrograms increased antibody levels 37 times and that a booster dose of 100 micrograms increased antibody levels 83 times compared to levels seen before one. reminder.

It is still unclear what these increases mean in terms of the clinical effectiveness of the booster doses against Omicron.

“The dramatic increase in cases of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant is of concern to all. However, these data showing that the currently licensed Moderna COVID-19 booster can increase the levels of neutralizing antibodies 37 times greater than the levels of pre-boost are reassuring, ”Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in the company’s announcement.

Jacqueline Howard, Naomi Thomas, Deidre McPhillips, Artemis Moshtaghian, Gregory Lemos, Keith Allen, Sarah Moon, Andy Rose, DJ Judd, Sarah Fortinsky, Jacob Lev, Holden Perrelli, Riuki Gakio and Niah Humphrey contributed to this report.