After a year, omicron is still driving surges and COVID concerns

A year after omicron began its assault on humanity, the ever-evolving coronavirus mutant has driven up the number of COVID-19 cases in many places, just as Americans came together for Thanksgiving. It was the prelude to a wave that experts expect to sweep the United States soon.

Phoenix-area emergency physician Dr. Nicholas Vasquez said his hospital has admitted increasing numbers of chronically ill people and nursing home residents with severe COVID-19 this month.

“It’s been a while since we needed COVID units,” he said. “He’s making a comeback.”

Nationally, new COVID cases averaged about 39,300 a day on Tuesday — far lower than last winter, but a vast undercount due to reduced testing and reporting. About 28,000 people with COVID have been hospitalized daily and about 340 have died.

Cases and deaths increased from two weeks earlier. Yet one-fifth of the US population has not been vaccinated, most Americans have not received the latest boosters, and many have stopped wearing masks.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to find ways to avoid defeat.

The omicron variant arrived in the United States just after Thanksgiving last year and caused the biggest wave of cases of the pandemic. Since then, it has spawned a large extended family of subvariants, such as those currently most common in the United States: BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and BA.5. They edged out their competitors by better evading immunity to vaccines and previous diseases – and sickening millions of people.

Carey Johnson’s family has been hit twice. She caught COVID-19 in January during the first wave of omicron, suffering flu-like symptoms and terrible pain that kept her going for a week. Her son Fabian Swain, 16, suffered from much milder symptoms in September when the BA.5 variant was dominant.

Fabian recovered quickly, but Johnson had a headache for weeks. Other problems lasted longer.

“I was like, ‘I can’t do this together.’ I couldn’t gather my thoughts. I couldn’t gather my energy,” said Johnson, 42, of Germantown, Maryland. “And it went on for months like that.”


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