As of Wednesday, the country is reporting an average of 300,886 new Covid-19 cases every day, a new pandemic, showed data from Johns Hopkins University.
For an average of 1,546 deaths every day, the number of lives the virus has claimed has increased by almost 18% this week, according to the data.
In the nation’s capital, Dr. James Phillips described stressful staff caring for patients who are mostly mild symptomatic and trying to get tested in emergency departments.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen at the peak of the pre-Covid boom,” Phillips told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Wednesday. “What we are experiencing right now is an absolute overwhelming” of emergency departments in Washington, he said.
Phillips, who is chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University Hospital, said D.C.-area hospitals are struggling with staff because of Omicron.
“While many of us were able to stay safe from the Delta virus and previous variants that came our way, Omicron is affecting our hospital staff in unprecedented ways,” Phillips said.
In Louisiana, Covid-19 hospitalizations have tripled in the past two weeks, as it records a record number of cases, according to the state.
Dr. Katherine O’Neill, chief medical officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, told CNN on Wednesday that patients at her hospital want to get tested but are also suffering from symptoms.
“We are seeing an increase in admissions which is shocking,” she said.
Many of the patients O’Neill sees have not been vaccinated. They often have more severe illness with pneumonia and need to be intubated or need high-flow oxygen. Another group of patients, who have not had a booster or who have been partially vaccinated, come down with a type of flu-like illness, but they are “fragile.”
“They’re older, they have heart failure, they have COPD, and they can’t handle COVID even when they’re vaccinated,” O’Neill said. “Luckily, most of them are turning around and going home after a couple of days, which is a good thing.”
Hospitalizations also peaked in Maryland, where 2,046 people were fighting Covid-19 in a hospital as of Tuesday. According to state data, the state recorded 10,873 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, which is the highest number of new cases in a 24-hour period.
New Year’s Celebrations Should Be Smaller This Year, Say Experts
With a spike in Covid-19 cases, experts are urging Americans to exercise caution while celebrating the new year.
Dr. Jonathan Renner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, said on Wednesday that people should skip the large indoor New Year’s Eve parties this year.
Rainer told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “The Omicron version of the coronavirus is “extraordinarily contagious, and if you’re in a crowd right now, and certainly if you’re unvaccinated, you’re at great risk of contracting this virus.” “
He notes that a small celebration at a friend’s house should be fine if everyone is vaccinated and tests negative before the party. Large outdoor parties are less risky unless they are crowded.
Rainer’s remarks echo the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who suggested earlier this week that people should avoid large gatherings on New Year’s Eve where they do not know the vaccination status of guests. Fauci also said that small gatherings of vaccinated family or close friends are safe.
“When you’re talking about a New Year’s Eve party where you have 30, 40, 50 people celebrating, you don’t know the vaccination status — I strongly recommend, this year. Stay away from it. There will be other years to do so, but not this year,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Fox News on Monday.
CDC guidance faces criticism
CDC Director Rochelle Valensky said Wednesday that new research, combined with some people’s reluctance to wait 10 days if infected, prompts some of the latest guidance.
“We know that the highest amount of transmission occurs in those two to three days before symptoms develop,” she said.
“And if you map that out, those five days account for somewhere between 85% and 90% of all transmissions.”
So for people who test positive but have no symptoms or decreasing symptoms on Day 5, “we reduced the time to encourage people to do the right thing,” Valensky told CBS on Wednesday.
“We don’t want them outside and that’s when they’re maximally contagious.”
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN he thinks the CDC is being criticized too harshly for changing the guidelines.
“Everything we’re going to do right now is incomplete. Accept it now,” Osterholm said on Wednesday.
“We don’t know a lot of things that we wish we knew, but what we do know and what is emerging here is that this country will be in a soup over the next few weeks with so many cases and so many places.” , that we are going to challenge critical infrastructure as well as health care,” Osterholm said.
Osterholm predicts that with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, there may not be enough people to work hospitals, grocery stores and gas stations. The change in CDC guidelines isn’t just about helping the economy, he said: “It was to play to the safety of our daily lives.”
CNN’s Jen Christensen and Virginia Langmid contributed to this report.