More than 1 million people in the US were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday as a tsunami of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 swamps every aspect of daily American life.
The highly mutated variant drove US cases to a record, the most — by a large margin — that any country has ever reported. Monday’s number is almost double the previous record of about 590,000 set just four days earlier in the US, which itself was a doubling from the prior week.
It is also more than twice the case count seen anywhere else at any time since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago. The highest number outside the US came during India’s Delta variant surge, when more than 414,000 people were diagnosed on May 7 last year.
The stratospheric numbers being posted in the US come even as many Americans are relying on tests they take at home, with results that are not reported to official government authorities. That means the record is surely a significant underestimate.
While surging cases have not yet translated into severe infections and skyrocketing deaths, their impact has been felt across the country as the newly infected isolate at home. The results are canceled flights, closed schools and offices, overwhelmed hospitals and strangled supply chains.
The data from Johns Hopkins University is complete as of midnight eastern time in Baltimore, Maryland, and delays in reporting over the holidays might have played a role in the rising rates.
The surge is leading authorities to mull a revision of some measures that were put in place to help guide the nation through the latest phase of the outbreak.
While the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened the isolation period to five days for asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19, the agency might add that they should get a negative test result before venturing out again, officials said.
The outbreak is also causing companies to halt their return-to-office steps, with the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co adopting the more cautious stance of encouraging staff to resume working from home at the start of the new year.
The silver lining is that deaths from COVID-19 have not similarly soared. Early studies show the Omicron variant spreads faster than earlier strains, but causes milder symptoms.
The outlook for this year depends on whether the death toll follows cases and picks up in the weeks to come, or if evidence suggesting the Omicron wave will be less severe holds up as more real-world data emerge.
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
‘ZERO’ STRATEGY: Carrie Lam said the airline faced a probe over its compliance with the rules after an outbreak was traced to air crew who breached quarantine Cathay Pacific is being investigated and faces possible legal action over an outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong that began with the airline’s employees, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday. The revelation came as Lam announced the suspension of all kindergarten and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year early next month. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a “zero COVID” strategy that has largely cut the international finance hub off from the mainland and the rest of the world for the past two years. A recent outbreak traced to Cathay Pacific air crew who breached home quarantine has sparked
PORT CONGESTION: Ships heading for Omicron-affected Dalian and Tianjin are being redirected to Shanghai, which does not have the capacity for the sudden cargo influx China has detected the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in a second major port city, deepening concern that the vastly more infectious variant could spread quickly across the world’s largest trading nation, upending global supply chains. Chinese officials said yesterday that at least one person has Omicron in Dalian, a city of 7 million. A second person also tested positive for the virus, but the variant is unknown. Both are college students who returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday from Tianjin, where at least 137 other cases were traced as of Wednesday. Dalian joins Tianjin as the second crucial port city
Japan extended measures barring almost all new foreign arrivals until the end of next month and is to reopen mass vaccination centers as it battles an surge of COVID-19 cases, the government said yesterday. “We will keep the current border control policy until the end of February while taking necessary measures from a humanitarian viewpoint and considering the national interest,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. Local media said that there would be some new exemptions for members of Japanese families as well as students studying in Japan, but there were no immediate details from officials. The government is also to reopen