The risk of winding up in the intensive care unit or dying from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is 83% less compared to the Delta strain, according to a new study.
In addition, the risk of hospitalization or death for an Omicron infection is 65% less than Delta, the Canadian study found.
Despite the seemingly good news, the researchers still had a warning. “While severity is likely to be reduced, the absolute number of hospitalizations and impact on the healthcare system may nevertheless be significant due to the increased transmissibility of Omicron.”
“Nevertheless, Omicron appears to demonstrate lower disease severity for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. While severity is likely to be reduced, the absolute number of hospitalizations and impact on the healthcare system is likely to be significant due to the large number of Omicron infections,” the study says.
The Canadian study mirrors findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The rate of hospitalizations of Americans with COVID-19 has dropped 50% amid the new Omicron variant compared to record highs seen a year ago, new CDC data shows.
Even though the rate of cases has has more than tripled in since Omicron emerged around Thanksgiving — earlier this week there were more than 1 million new cases diagnosed on a single day — just 3% of people with the virus are being admitted in hospitals, data from the CDC shows.
That rate is less than half the 6.5% of cases that needed hospitalization exactly a year ago, when the average daily case count was about 250,000, the data shows. Deaths from the virus are less than a third of what was recorded last January at about 1,200 per day, far fewer than the record high of 3,400 a year ago, CDC data shows.
The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 now accounts for nearly every new case of the virus blanketing the U.S., according to the CDC.
The new strain represented 95.4% of sequenced COVID-19 cases during the week ending on New Year’s Day, while the once-dominant Delta variant made up just only 4.6% of sequenced cases, the CDC said.
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 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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.