The Omicron wave is now receding in states where the highly contagious variant arrived later, and some governors say it’s time for pandemic-weary Americans to try to restore a sense of normalcy and learn to live with it. the virus.
The United States remains in a precarious position as hospitals are overwhelmed and daily deaths exceed 2,500 and rise. Case numbers are now down in some inland states, including Arizona, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi, where Omicron swept more recently, and although from new cases are also declining nationwide, they remain far higher than in any other period. of the pandemic. And the spread of an Omicron subvariant that appears to be even more contagious has led some experts to warn that the winter surge may take longer than expected to subside.
The daily average of cases in the United States remains at around 519,000 per day, more than double the worst statistics of last winter. Hospitalizations, which are lagging behind cases, appear to have peaked nationwide, although they remain higher than last winter’s peak. Deaths, which are further behind, are also at record highs in some states.
In a few states, like Washington and Montana, cases continue to rise.
A few heads of state said on Sunday that while more variants and, inevitably, another surge remain a threat, Omicron has brought the country closer to the endemic stage of the virus.
“We’re not going to run this from scratch,” Governor Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, told Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We have to learn to live with that.
Public health experts say the next phase of the virus in the United States will depend on which variants emerge and whether or not a slow vaccination campaign is accelerated. Herd immunity against the coronavirus is unlikely to be achieved, experts say.
The spread of an Omicron sub-variant is another reminder of the unpredictable path the pandemic could take next.
Scientists are warning that the newest member of the Omicron virus family, known as BA.2, could lead to the surge of Omicron in much of the world. So far, BA.2 does not appear to cause more severe disease, and vaccines are just as effective against it as against other forms of Omicron. But BA.2 shows signs of spreading more easily.
“This may mean higher peaks of infections in places that have not yet peaked and slower downward trends in places that have already seen an Omicron peak,” said Thomas Peacock, virologist at Imperial College London, to Carl Zimmer of The Times.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief Covid adviser, recently offered words of cautious optimism, saying he believed outbreaks could become much more manageable in the coming months – to a point where “they are there, but they don’t”. not disrupt society.
As Omicron declines, Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican, said the United States should move toward treating the virus as if it were endemic, but remain vigilant. He acknowledged that more variants are inevitable and called on the federal government to help states increase testing capacity and access to treatments.
“That’s where the feds need to step in,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “Let’s take advantage of this descent to prepare for what lies ahead.”
Roni Caryn Rabin, Carl Zimmer and Maggie Astor contributed to this report.