US: Omicron now dominant strain, first death reported
The health authorities in the US said that Omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country.
According to the federal estimates, Omicron variant accounted for 73 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the US, surging from around three percent last week.
The delta variant, which had been the dominant form of the virus in the US last week, has now receded to roughly 27 percent of sequenced cases.
The US has also reported its first death due to Omicron variant of COVID-19 from Harris County in Texas on Monday.
“The highly mutated coronavirus strain has been detected across the country,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its weekly updates.
The sizable increase in Omicron’s overall prevalence underscores fears that the rapidly spreading variant could produce a wave of infections that will strain the US’ health-care system. While there is evidence that Omicron doesn’t produce more severe illness than delta, a large surge in infection levels could still swamp hospitals with sick patients.
“The jump in Omicron was expected and is similar to patterns seen world-wide,” the CDC said.
In some pockets of the US, Omicron accounts for nearly all new infections. According to the CDC estimate, the variant made up an estimated 92 percent of cases in New York and New Jersey, and 96 percent in Washington state.
The US is urging those who are eligible to get vaccinated and to seek out booster shots to ward off Omicron. On Monday, Moderna Inc. said that a third dose of their vaccine increased antibody levels against the variant, and Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have said that lab studies show that a third dose of their vaccine also helps neutralize Omicron.
“Other prevention measures such as masking indoors and at-home testing can also help curb transmission of the virus,” CDC said.
The spread of Omicron has meanwhile forced many businesses to reconsider return-to-office plans as well as events like investor meetings.
“Folks, Omicron cases are on the rise in the United States. I want to give you all a sense of where we are and what we know… We are working around the clock to increase testing capacity, vaccine availability, and support for our hospitals. I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet.
Folks, Omicron cases are on the rise in the United States. I want to give you all a sense of where we are and what we know.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 21, 2021
“In the meantime: Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask. And keep the faith. We’ll get through this together,” Biden said in the tweet.
(With inputs from Agencies)