The number of new Covid-19 cases in New York more than doubled in December. It has leveled off in recent days.
In both New Jersey and Maryland, the number of new cases has fallen slightly this week. In several large cities, this number also shows signs of leveling off.
In Boston, the amount of Covid virus detected in wastewater, which has been a major indicator of case trends in the past, has fallen by about 40 percent since its peak just after January 1.
“We really try to never predict this virus because it always throws us in a loop,” she told GBH News. Shira Doron, epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center. “But at least the wastewater indicates a sharp decline, so we hope that this means that even cases will drop sharply, followed by hospitalizations and deaths.”
As Doron suggested, it is too early to be sure that the Omicron wave has peaked in areas with encouraging data – which are usually the places where Omicron first arrived in the US, but there is good reason to consider this scenario most likely. “Looks like we might get over that peak,” Governor Kathy Hochul of New York said this week.
(Find cases for your county here.)
A huge increase in cases lasting about a month, followed by a rapid decline, would be in line with the experience of some places where Omicron arrived before the US. peak of mid-December. The chart showing the recent trend in South Africa looks like a skinny, inverted letter V.
In Britain, where pandemic trends were often a few weeks ahead of those in the US, cases peaked just after the New Year and have declined somewhat since then:
In previous versions of Covid, such as the Delta variant, the up and down cycles tended to last longer. Once the epidemic broke out, the number of cases often increased for about two months before falling.
Researchers do not fully understand Covid’s cycles, but the explanation probably involves some combination of the biological qualities of the virus and the size of a typical human social network. After about two months, the outbreak of earlier variants began to burn, similar to a forest fire.
Omicron is so contagious that it spreads faster. This rapid spread may also mean that it will reach most people who are vulnerable to infection faster. Omicron’s short boom and decline is now a “well-known role model,” says Joseph Allen of Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Ali Mokdad, a professor of medical metrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, told The Associated Press that he believed the actual number of cases in the United States – including those not included in any official census – had already peaked, probably last week. “It will fall down as fast as it will go up,” he predicted.
To be clear, the current emergency is not on the verge of ending. The cases seem to peak only in places where Omicron arrived early, mostly in the northeast. Cases are still on the rise in much of the country.
Some hospitals are already congested and trends in hospitalization often lag behind trends in the number of cases by about a week. Death trends tend to lag behind in the next few weeks. “It will be difficult for two or three weeks,” Mokdad said. The US appears to be on track for a terrible number of serious diseases in the coming weeks, mostly among the unvaccinated.
(Related: United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said that while 3,000 employees were recently tested positive for the virus, zero vaccinated employees were hospitalized. This is a big change. and Covid.)
The beginning of the end of the Omicron wave – if it turns out to be real – would be very good news.
This would mean that the milder option became the dominant form of Covid, but no longer caused an increase in cases and congestion of hospitals. This would mean that tens of millions of Americans have built up additional immunity as a result of the Omicron infection. This would mean that the country would take a big step towards a future in which Covid is an endemic disease like the flu, rather than a pandemic that controls life.
Lauren Ancel Meyers, who runs Covid’s analysis project at the University of Texas, said people could soon look back to Omicron as a turning point. “At some point, we will be able to draw a line – and Omicron may be the point – where we will move from a catastrophic global threat to something that is a much more manageable disease,” she told the AP.
Of course, as we all should have learned, Covid might also surprise you again. Another possibility, Meyers said, is that a dangerous new variant could emerge this spring. This result is unlikely and likely, which is always a difficult combination to understand.
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ART AND IDEAS
Where is the sweater from?
What if we could read the labels on our clothes just as we read the labels on our foods? It’s starting to happen: Transparency and traceability are getting to the labels on the rack.
The idea dates back to at least 2019, when the English knitwear brand introduced a label on its sweaters that allowed customers to see where its Merino wool came from, writes Dana Thomas in The Times. A recent sustainable brand in Nashville has added something that looks very similar to a nutrition label, showing how shoemaking affects the workers involved and the environment.
Here’s how it works and why it’s worth knowing where your clothes come from. – Claire Moses, Morning writer