Delta fumbled the ball, but Omicron recovered it and is roaring down the field.
“Health officials reported Tuesday morning that Omicron now accounts for an estimated 98 percent of COVID cases in the U.S., up from 95 percent last week, and meaning that nearly all cases in the U.S. are of the strain that was only discovered months ago,” The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
The U.K. paper said there was also good news, noting that “signs are pointing to the variant slowly losing steam and peaking in the next few weeks, if other former hotspots around the world are any indication.”
Over the past week, the U.S. has averaged 767,000 new cases per day — the most since the pandemic hit in February 2020. Before Omicron arrived, the average was just more than 235,000 cases, meaning cases have tripled, The Mail reported.
Cases rose by 27% since January 3 and deaths this week rose by 12% over the same period, according to a Daily Mail analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
Omicron took over in just a matter of weeks. At the beginning of December, the variant accounted for less than 1% of sequenced cases, with Delta making up 99% of them. By the week ending on Christmas Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated the variant to be 58.6% of all new cases.
While data are still being studied for the fast-moving variant, some researchers say Omicron taking over could be good news.
Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban recently conducted a small study that found people infected with Omicron — and especially those who have been fully vaccinated — developed a higher immunity to Delta.
“The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, involved 15 vaccinated and unvaccinated Omicron patients in South Africa, according to Bloomberg News, which noted that two were excluded because they didn’t detectably neutralize Omicron,” The New York Post reported. “The authors, led by Alex Sigal and Khadija Khan, found that while the neutralization of Omicron increased 14-fold over 14 days after the enrollment, there also was a 4.4-fold increase in neutralization of the Delta variant.”
“The increase in Delta variant neutralization in individuals infected with Omicron may result in decreased ability of Delta to re-infect those individuals,” the authors said, adding that the findings are “consistent with Omicron displacing the Delta variant, since it can elicit immunity which neutralizes making re-infection with Delta less likely.”
Omicron displacing Delta as the main variant is big news because Omicron, while more contagious, seems far less likely to land sufferers in the hospital.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s chief epidemiologist predicted “we will have our normal lives back in two months.”
Tyra Grove Krause said on Danish TV 2 that a new study from Denmark’s State Serum Institute found that the risk of winding up in the hospital with Omicron is half that seen with the previous Delta variant. She also said that like the emergence of the variant in South Africa, cases will rise, then quickly fall.
“I think we will have that in the next two months, and then I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back,” she said earlier this month, according to The Mail.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to [email protected].