The world has just reported a record daily number of new COVID cases as the omicron wave has reached yet another milestone.
After a team of distinguished South African epidemiologists alerted the WHO to the advent of omicron while millions of Americans were settling down for their Thanksgiving dinner, experts immediately got to work gathering and analyzing what little data had been collected.
One of them included the following hopeful notion: that because omicron appeared less virulent than delta, it might crowd out the more harmful strain and cause an explosion of new cases without the attendant surge in hospitalizations and deaths. The scientists described this theory as a potential silver lining in the virus's nature: as humans' immunity improves dramatically, the virus might be evolving to become more of a nuisance and less of a threat, instead of the other way around.
Bloomberg just reported that the number of new omicron cases reported on Monday around the world had surged to a new record. Monday's case tally was 1.44M. That far outpaced the prior record (data excludes one day last December when Turkey backdated a significant number of cases).
The more-conservative 7-day moving average, which is intended to smooth over any spikes in the data, is also at a record high thanks to the tidal wave of omicron cases.
Millions inside and outside the US are learning first-hand that omicron is the most infectious variant yet, as it cuts through vaccine-induced immunity like butter. It's quickly becoming the dominant strain globally, with the 7-day rolling average standing at 841K, an increase of 49% from a month ago, when omicron was first identified.
The latest viral wave caught millions by surprise and forced Americans to cancel Christmas gatherings, much to President Biden's chagrin. The president has since abandoned his promise to "shut down" the virus, conceding instead that it's a problem for the states.
Studies suggest that while omicron infects 70x faster than previous strains, the sickness it causes may not be as severe, especially for people who have been vaccinated and received a booster shot (or who have been previously infected). Many fear the ease of transmission and soaring number of cases could still squeeze hospital capacity worldwide, leaving the unvaccinated and anyone who needs medical care for other conditions in the lurch.
The good news here, according to Bloomberg, is that daily COVID deaths haven't increased significantly at all: The seven-day rolling average of deaths has hovered at about 7K since mid-October after falling from a delta-driven peak. This hasn't changed at all since the emergence of omicron, even as the total number of infections has increased.
Early signs out of southern Africa have shown some "decoupling" between cases and deaths, suggesting that this trend will be more durable than certain doomsayers (Dr. Fauci) have anticipated.
As far as when this might end, projections are presently centered around any time between early January and early February.