The United States is one week away from a Christmas that was supposed to be much more festive than the previous one. Two weeks into a new year in which it was once possible to imagine the pandemic fading into the depths of a mostly normal life.
Instead, nearly 1,300 Americans die from the coronavirus every day, more than 120,000 test positive, and millions more experience some sort of fear – this very particular kind magnified by a lack of information and by the fact. to know that even what seems clear this afternoon could change into the evening – which they thought they left behind.
“It’s as bad as expected,” said Governor Kathy Hochul of New York. said Thursday, as the state’s workload has reached levels not seen since February, in part thanks to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. “We ask people to follow common sense. Get vaccinated, get boosted. Please don’t take any chances.
New York authorities reported 21,027 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, the highest daily total since the early days of the pandemic, when the availability of testing was not as widespread as it is now.
While experts say people vaccinated with Omicron can expect asymptomatic or mild infections, those who aren’t vaccinated shouldn’t expect the same.
“For the unvaccinated, you envision a winter of serious illness and death for yourself, your families, and the hospitals that you may soon overwhelm,” Jeffrey D. Zients, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said friday.
Only 61% of Americans are fully immunized and far fewer have received a booster. The average daily number of new cases in the United States has increased 31% over the past two weeks, to about 124,000, according to the New York Times. coronavirus tracker. Hospitalizations have increased by 20%. Deaths have increased by 23%. And experts expect those numbers to increase further as people travel and congregate for the holiday season, creating more possibilities for the virus to spread.
In rural western Michigan, physicians from already crowded hospitals are preparing for more cases of the news Omicron variant. Researchers are rushing to figure out the answers to pressing questions, especially whether, as early data from South Africa suggests, the variant could produce less severe disease.
Queues at New York City test sites circle the block. As restaurants close, Broadway shows are canceled and the holiday season is canceled, it’s almost like it’s 2020 once again.
Across the country, some employers mandate boosters and postpone plans to return to the office. The US military began to reject the small percentage of military personnel who refuse to be vaccinated.
Colleges and universities cancel in-person gatheringsfrom graduation ceremonies and athletic competitions to online final exams. When some students return from winter vacation, their classes will be online. And in primary schools, class closings are increasing.
More than a dozen Cleveland school districts canceled classes on Friday after several staff members called sick. Prince George County in Maryland became the first major school district on Friday switch to distance learning.
National rates of infections, hospitalizations and death are still lower than last winter, before vaccines were available. But the highly contagious variant of Omicron comes as hospitals in many parts of the country, especially the Midwest and Northeast, are still battling Delta. Health officials in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands estimate that Omicron accounts for about 13% of their new cases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr Rochelle P. Walensky on Friday urged people to get vaccinated, wash their hands, improve ventilation and wear masks at indoor gatherings.
“I think we’re in a very different place this year than last year, and we really want people to be able to come together and come together safely,” she said. “We now have the tools to do it, and what we’re really saying is trust those tools. “
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, compared the current situation to the darkest moments of a war.
“It’s a bit like at the start of the Second World War, when we lost all the battles and we were pushed back on the Pacific front and on the European front. Dr Fauci told CNN on Friday. “If we had said, ‘Oh my God, we’re all tired, let’s give up’, that wouldn’t have been a good thing.”
The United States and the world are “at war with a very formidable enemy,” he said. “We are going to win the war because we are better than the virus.”
Mitch smith and Abby goodnough contributed reports.