Weary doctors and nurses on the front lines of the pandemic are preparing to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients over the Christmas holiday for the second year in a row, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant drives up case counts across the United States.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 70,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Thursday, up from around 45,000 in early November.
According to Johns Hopkins data, the US averaged 1,303 Covid-19 deaths per day over the last week, a 14 percent increase from the previous month.
Early evidence suggests that increased antibody levels caused by new vaccinations or booster doses can help protect people from a potentially more transmissible Omicron. Researchers are still investigating whether Omicron has a lower risk of severe disease than Delta or earlier variants.
People who oppose mask mandates, including elected officials, should see what health care workers face on a daily basis, according to Seizys, whose coworkers are attempting to “rally around each other” in the face of rising hospitalizations.
Because both the Delta and Omicron variants are prevalent in the United States, it is difficult to determine which is causing people to become ill. More research on hospitalization characteristics, such as length of stay, is needed, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner who is now a Pfizer board member.
The first Omicron-related death in the United States was reported in Texas, where an unvaccinated man in his 50s who had previously had Covid-19 died from a new infection. Cases in many parts of the country are still on the rise, despite the fact that the variant has been found in all 50 states. Following the city of Washington, DC setting another record high for cases, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that proof of vaccination will be required for those over the age of 12 to enter restaurants, gyms, and other gathering places.
According to officials, grocery stores, retail stores, and museums would not be required to check for proof of vaccinations, and religious institutions would be exempt. Eligible students in Washington, DC public schools are also required to be immunized by March 1.
In the meantime, some universities are adjusting their spring semesters by temporarily switching to online learning, while others are mandating booster doses for vaccinated students and staff. Duke University has joined the list of schools that have recently announced a booster vaccine requirement, which includes Syracuse, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Hofstra, and New York University.
In California, health care workers will be required to get a booster shot, and students will be tested before returning to school in January, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.
With the increase in Omicron cases – and Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching – demand for Covid-19 tests is far outstripping current supply, resulting in long lines nationwide and the risk of positive cases not being detected.
According to a senior administration official, the Biden administration plans to provide 500 million new tests by next month, but time will be required to fulfill the orders and details are still being worked out.
Due to high demand, CVS Health and Walgreens, the two largest pharmaceutical chain stores in the United States, have announced that they will limit the number of at-home Covid-19 kits that customers can purchase. On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir, “for the treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in adults… at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate.”
On Wednesday, the FDA approved the first pill to treat Covid-19. According to an FDA statement, Pfizer’s Paxlovid “should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis of Covid-19 and within five days of symptom onset.” Paxlovid, a combination of two antiviral drugs, is to be prescribed by a doctor and taken as three pills twice a day for five days.
The White House has purchased ten million courses of Pfizer’s antiviral treatment, with 265,000 available in January and “monthly totals of pills ramping up across the year and all ten million treatment courses delivered by late summer,” according to Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.