Latest Covid, Omicron and Vaccine News: Live Updates

PictureThe Omicron rise filled hospitals in Brooklyn last month, including Brookdale Hospital Medical Center.
Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The omicron wave is now making its way back to states where the extremely contagious variant arrived later, and some governors say it’s time for pandemic-weary Americans to try to restore a sense of normalcy and learn to live with the virus.

The United States remains in a precarious situation as hospitals are overloaded and the number of daily deaths is over 2,500 and rising. The number of cases is now declining in some inland states, including Arizona, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi, where the Omicron has recently taken off, and while new cases are also declining nationally, they remain much higher than in any other period of the pandemic. And the proliferation of an Omicron subvariant that appears to be even more contagious has some experts warning that it may take longer than expected for the winter wave to subside.

The daily average of cases in the US is still around 519,000 a day – more than double the worst statistics from last winter. Hospital admissions, which are delaying cases, appear to have peaked nationally, although they remain higher than last winter’s peak. Deaths that lag more are also at record levels in some states.

In a few states, such as Washington and Montana, things are still rising.

A few heads of state said Sunday that while more variants and inevitably another increase remains a threat, Omicron has brought the country closer to the endemic phase of the virus.

“We’re not going to make it to zero,” New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, told Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday. “We have to learn to live with this.”

Public health experts say the next stage of the virus in the United States will depend on what variants appear and whether a sluggish vaccination campaign takes off. Flock immunity to coronavirus, experts say, is unlikely to be achieved.

The proliferation of an Omicron subvariant is yet another reminder of the unpredictable path the pandemic may take next time.

Researchers warn that the new member of the Omicron virus family, known as BA.2, may be pulling out the Omicron rise in large parts of the world. So far, BA.2 does not appear to cause more serious illness, and vaccines are just as effective against it as they are against other forms of Omicron. But BA.2 shows signs of spreading more easily.

“This could mean higher peak infections in places that have not yet peaked, and a slowdown in the downward trends in places that have already experienced the peak of Omicron,” Thomas Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, told The Times’ Carl Zimmer.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, chief adviser to Covid for President Biden, recently came out with words of cautious optimism, saying he believed outbreaks could become much more manageable in the coming months – to a point where “they are there, but it does not “disturb the community.”

As Omicron falls, Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican, said the United States should move toward treating the virus as if it were endemic, but remain vigilant. He recognized that several variants are inevitable and called on the federal government to help states increase testing capacity and access to treatments.

“This is where the federal government needs to step up,” he told the “Meet the Press.” “Let’s take advantage of this going down to being prepared for what’s around the corner.”

Roni Caryn Rabin, carl room and Maggie Astor contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment