by Heather Hollingsworth | The Associated Press
While all eyes are on the new and lesser-understood Omicron variant, the delta form of the coronavirus is wreaking havoc in the US, sending record numbers of patients to hospital in some states, notably the Midwest and New England.
“Omicron is a spark that is on the horizon. The Delta variant is the fire that is here today,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the State Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, where a record 334 people died midweek with COVID-19. As was in the hospital.
The US on Wednesday recorded its first known Omicron infection in a fully vaccinated man who had returned from South Africa to California, where the type was first identified a week ago.
A second US case was confirmed Thursday in Minnesota, involving a vaccinated man who participated in an anime controversy just before Thanksgiving in New York City that attracted an estimated 50,000 people. This would suggest that the variant has begun to spread within the US.
But much is unknown about Omicron, including whether it is more contagious than previous versions, makes people sicker or more easily fails the vaccine or breaks through that immunity. that people get from COVID-19.
For now, the extra-infectious delta variant accounts for practically all cases in the US and continues to hurt at a time when many hospitals are grappling with shortages of nurses and backlogs of patients undergoing procedures in the pandemic. was closed early. ,
The fear is that Omicron will inflict even more patients, and probably sick people, on hospitals.
“To me, it’s really fair, I can’t imagine,” said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician in Phoenix. “Are we going to see another surge in cases that is even higher than what we are seeing now? What will this do for our health system? What will happen to our hospitals with this?”
Two years into the outbreak, COVID-19 has killed more than 780,000 Americans, and deaths are running around 900 per day.
COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US have dropped by almost half since the delta peak in August and September, but the number of new infections per day, about 86,000, is still worryingly high, especially over the holidays, when people Travels and gathers with family.
With the onset of cold weather, hospitals are feeling the stress of sending more people indoors.
“The delta is not decreasing,” said Dr., an infectious-disease physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Andre Kalil said. Nebraska on Tuesday reported 555 people with COVID-19 in hospital — the highest number since last December, when the vaccine rollout was just starting.
Vermont recorded its highest total since the start of the pandemic: 84. New Hampshire, once an early vaccination leader, is now second only to Michigan in the most new cases per capita in the past two weeks.
In Minnesota, which ranks third for most new cases per capita, the Pentagon last month sent medical teams to two major hospitals to help doctors and nurses relieve COVID-19 patients.
“This fourth wave, I can tell clearly, has hit Minnesota harder than the last one,” said Dr. Timothy Johnson, president of the Minnesota chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
He said hospitals are struggling because of a combination of nurses shortage, fatigue and patients undergoing treatment that had to be postponed earlier in the crisis. “Now those chickens are coming to the house for a little bit of a walk,” he said.
At Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where one of the military medical teams was dispatched, the number of COVID-19 patients has doubled since September, although it is well below the pandemic high, the spokesman said. Christine Hill said.
“And it pertains to the coming holidays,” she said.
Dr. Palin Park, who cares for critically ill patients at the University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor, called the latest surge “heartbreaking.” A COVID-19 patient, a woman in her 20s, died the week of Thanksgiving. Another, a mother with young children, is on a machine made to handle her lungs.
Arizona, where students in dozens of classrooms have been forced into quarantine, reported more than 3,100 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the same as the devastating heat of 2020. Hospital bed space has plummeted to pandemic levels.
Bhuyan said a patient with a blood clot in his lung was discharged instead of being admitted. Other patients are waiting hours in the emergency room.
“It’s just hard because it feels like we’re really going back in time, even though we have these vaccines, which are such a huge weapon for us,” she said.
While more than two dozen countries around the world have reported omicron infections, including India, on Thursday, the numbers are lower outside South Africa, which has confirmed more than 170 cases. World health officials have not yet linked any of the deaths to Omicron.
The Delta version is still causing deep turmoil in Europe, including Germany and Austria. South Korea is also seeing a delta-driven surge that has pushed hospitalizations and deaths to record highs.
On Thursday, Germany, where new COVID-19 infections topped 70,000 in a 24-hour period, barred non-essential shops and unaffiliated from cultural and recreational venues. A general vaccine mandate is expected to be taken by lawmakers in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Austria extended its lockdown.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the measures were necessary because hospitals could be overloaded: “The situation in our country is critical.”