Texas is the latest state to confirm COVID-19 infection cause by the Omicron variant, making the total number of states with confirmed infections at least 19. In addition to identifying a patient with the variant, health officials in Houston say they have confirmed the variant in wastewater, ABC News reports.
Today during a White House press briefing, Anthony Fauci, MD, said the Omicron (B.1.1.529) strain seems to be highly transmissible but so far does not look to increase disease severity.
"The inkling we are getting, and this is all in the form of anecdotal [sic], is it appears we are not seeing a very severe profile of disease," Fauci said. He urged caution, however, as most of the initial data on the variant strain comes from South Africa, where the infected population has been young, and thus less likely to experience severe COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, urged unvaccinated Americans to get covered before the holiday season.
"We must mobilize together to do what we know works," she said. "Vaccines work, testing works, masking works, ventilation works."
Walensky said the current 7-day average number of new daily cases is 103,824 per day, up significantly from the prior week's average of 87,603 cases. The nation is tracking approximately 1,100 deaths per day. The United States reported 192,917 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, and 1,382 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
Vaccination rates increase
Demand for COVID-19 vaccines has spiked in the United States in recent weeks, with more Americans now eligible for boosters and concerns growing over the Omicron variant, the Washington Post reports.
Today Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator said the country was administering 1 million booster doses of vaccine per day in the last week. And, in general, the country administered 12.5 million vaccine doses last week, the highest weekly total since May.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 60.1% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 71.2% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 24% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose.
Despite the increase in vaccination uptake, midwestern hot spots are still reporting new pandemic records.
The number of people hospitalized in intensive care in Minnesota has reached the highest level yet during the pandemic, the Associated Press reports. The state is reporting a 98% ICU occupancy rate when COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients are included.
And finally, more than 100,000 US children were confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past week, the 17th consecutive week where totals have breached 100,000.
More than 133,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported from Nov 25 to Dec 2, according to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Most won't change behavior for Omicron
Only about 30% of Americans say they're likely to stop dining indoors at restaurants in response to the new variant, and fewer than one-in-four say they're likely to cancel holiday travel plans. according to a new Axios-Ipsos poll.
Most Americans, however, welcome broader measures to prevent spread of Omicron. Sixty-nine percent said they agreed with businesses requiring masks indoors, and 67% agreed with international travel restrictions.