This is case update. I’ll also give an Omicron update, and discuss the criteria that must be met if Omicron is to be a blessing rather than put us back to square one.
For the US, the Northeastern states are continuing to see increased cases in states like New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois. This is at least partially because of colder temperatures leading to more people being indoors. Last year, the Winter wave spread from Northern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Just like last Winter, Cook County, the home of Chicago, has the most active cases in the US right now.
In California, new cases remain at a persistent level after the Delta wave.
San Diego County experienced a burst in cases in the last few weeks.
Globally, new cases are at a peak, but reducing for now. However, many countries are starting to experience increasing numbers of Omicron cases.
Omicron update: Information on Omicron infection continues to come in from South Africa, and now from the UK and Denmark. In South Africa, most new cases are now from Omicron, but fatalities are only 4% of what they were during the Delta wave there. In the UK, it is estimated that fully 50% of new cases are from Omicron. At this point, there are 1 million new Omicron cases every day. Omicron is proving to be explosively infectious. John Campbell says the US is about 3 weeks behind the UK, and we’ll see 1 million new cases of Omicron per day by the first week of January.
Surveillance is very good in Denmark, and a lot of isolated strains are being sequenced. It appears in Danish data that previous vaccination or infection status has almost no bearing on whether someone is infected by Omicron, so we can’t expect vaccines to prevent infection. However, it does appear that previous infection or vaccination reduces the chance of hospitalization or death from Omicron.
Commentators warn that because of its very high infectiousness, nearly everyone will be infected with Omicron at some point. However, the fatality rate is very low compared to other strains, although not zero. In order to reduce your symptoms, continue to supplement with Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zn. Costco carries a supplement with all 3 in the same pill! If you’re in a Northern state, you can also make Vitamin D by having an extended snowball fight with your kids on a sunny day. Don’t throw at the face, or it’ll be a short fight.
Will Omicron be a blessing?: Several commentators like John Campbell, Chris Martenson, and Mobeen Syad are feeling optimistic that Omicron really may represent the end of the pandemic. Here’s what needs to be in place for this to be a reality, and how the data stands right now. As a reminder, I am not an epidemiologist, I’m a molecular biologist. This is my informed but not expert opinion.
- Omicron must not use the ADE pathway to produce more severe cases: Looking at the available data so far, while Omicron may preferentially infect those who have been previously infected, cases are still mild, and fatality rates very low. So for now, this criteria is met.
- Low fatality in older populations: South Africa has a relatively young population, so reports of mild symptoms may not carry over to countries with older populations. At this point, it appears preliminarily in the UK that fatality rates are lower than with Delta, so I’m going to say this criteria is met with some caution.
The next 3 are related, but not exactly the same.
- Displace Delta: Delta is currently the most common strain in the world, and almost 100% of COVID in the US right now. Omicron must displace Delta as the dominant strain. Binding of a more infectious SARS-2 strain to cells will prevent others from binding instead, so this criteria will likely be met.
- Omicron must not circulate independently from Delta: Related to the above, if Omicron is very different from Delta, it may act as a completely different virus. There’s a chance that Omicron may displace Delta on the short term but still allow Delta to persist. Right now, most guess that Omicron will not be independent from Delta, but we’re not sure yet.
- Omicron infection must immunize against future SARS-2: Since Omicron appears to infect those with immunity to Delta, it may be that it is different enough that it will not provide immunity to Delta or other SARS-2 strains. This criteria is not strictly necessary if Omicron completely displaces other SARS-2 strains (see 3 above), but it would be really nice to have some protection against future strains.
As of right now, I’m actually feeling optimistic about chances that Omicron will end the pandemic! It’s still too early to tell for sure. For myself, I continue to take precautions until more is known. Keep in mind that Delta is still almost all of the SARS-2 virus in the US right now, so it’s not time to run out and get your natural immunity to Omicron. Also, when Omicron hits hard in the US, a lot of people will be at home sick at once, so expect some economic disruption, and be prepared for colleagues to not be at work.
Don’t fear, but be smart,