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Is end of Omicron wave in sight?

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Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2022. 10:13 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Omicron wave is likely beginning to recede in the U.S., experts say according to Axios.

Weeks after it first appeared, Omicron is still wreaking havoc in parts of the country, but infectious disease experts are optimistic that relief is around the corner.

In South Africa and the United Kingdom, which experienced their Omicron waves before the U.S., cases spiked dramatically and then fell almost as quickly. That appears to be happening now in parts of the U.S. that got hit with the variant early, including Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

“The trajectory was incredibly steep and rising to, of course, a new height in infections. That does appear now, in aggregate, to be starting to decline,” Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Axios.

However, while cases are beginning to fall in the East Coast cities that were among the first to see the variant take hold, Omicron likely hasn’t peaked yet in other parts of the U.S. “In this country as a whole, it might take a while longer to resolve this surge,” in comparison to South Africa or the U.K., Dan Barouch, director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, told Axios. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned over the weekend that a “national peak” hasn’t been reached yet, urging caution as hospitalizations continue to strain health systems, the Washington Post reported.

The variant appears milder than prior ones but still puts a strain on hospital resources and killed more than 1,000 per day. The U.S. is already at more than 850 thousand COVID deaths just a month after reaching 800 thousand, with the loss of life peak still likely ahead.

Nevertheless, the U.S. does seem to be largely tracking with the projections from South Africa with this variant, Bob Wachter, chairman of the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine, told Axios. If there is no variant right behind Omicron, we could be in for a “fairly benign period where it will be appropriate to live life more normally” this spring, he said, adding that while there are still potential curveballs, we could be looking at the first signs of a conversion of the pandemic to an endemic disease.

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