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Has the Omicron wave peaked in the USA?


The seven-day moving average for daily new cases of COVID in the USA — essentially all Omicron at this point — appears to have peaked about eight days ago at around 814,000, and has fallen to 714,000 since then. Daily case totals are still going up in the majority of states, but are falling pretty quickly on the eastern seaboard where the variant first hit.

The seven-day moving average for daily deaths is now at about 2,000. Given lags between infection and resolution, that average is likely to rise to around 2,500 in about another week, before beginning to fall off as well.

Public health experts are predicting, cautiously, that the Omicron wave should be largely over in the USA in another four to six weeks:

“I anticipate in the short run — being the next six weeks, four to six weeks — that it’s still going to be pretty rough,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an expert in infectious diseases and vaccinology and clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “It will be about the middle of February before we start to really see that things are getting better.”

What happens then is naturally still pretty speculative:

Swartzberg believes March through spring or into summer will be like last year, with a continued decline in the number of cases. “There will be a sense of optimism, and then we will be able to do more things in our lives,” Swartzberg said.

“I think May or June is going to really look up for us. I’m quite optimistic.”Part of his optimism stems from the fact that there will be a much larger immune population, between the increasing number of people who are vaccinated and boosted, and those who’ve caught Covid-19 during the Omicron surge.

“Generally speaking, the level of immunity in our population is going to be much higher than it was going into the Omicron pandemic, and that’s going to help us not only with Omicron and Delta, if they’re still circulating, but it will also help us with any new variants,” Swartzberg said. “To what degree will depend on the availability of medicines to intervene.”

That’s because the coronavirus will probably never go away completely.

As many people have noted, the optimistic scenario here is what happened with the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. That strain of the flu is still with us today, in various variants. Nevertheless the pandemic that killed something between 17 million and 100 million world wide during those years was, temporally speaking, a localized catastrophe, as so many people who lived through those years carried a certain amount of immunity going forward.

In regard to the COVID virus we have the advantages of vaccine technology to go along with previous exposure, so what would it look like for COVID to reach the much-anticipated endemic state, perhaps as early as this spring?

Various strains of influenza are basically endemic in the USA, and the stats on those look roughly like this:

Over the past decade, before COVID hit, the USA was seeing anywhere from nine million to 41 million flu cases per year, depending on the year.

Approximately one to two percent of these cases resulted in hospitalization.

Around one in one thousand cases resulted in death.

Something like that I suppose is the realistic best case scenario for COVID in the medium-term (2023?) future, as higher and higher percentages of the population are vaccinated and/or exposed to the virus.

So all the right wingers who said it was just the flu will of course turn out to have been right all along . . . 4000 or so Epstein Units later, anyway.

Of course there are other scenarios – a variant arises that is as infectious as Omicron and as deadly as Delta, and it takes many months to develop an effective vaccine — but as of right now we still have a decent shot of climbing out of this thing with no more than a couple of million deaths in the USA, tops, before it becomes just like the flu . . . depending on the breaks, as Gen. Turgidson once observed.

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