CDC drastically drops estimate of US Omicron cases

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised down its estimates for US infection by the Omicron variant, stating it accounts for approximately 59% of all Covid cases in the US, not 73% as it previously said.

Nevertheless, the figures issued Tuesday indicates that Omicron is spreading rapidly in the US, growing from a revised estimate of 23% of cases as of 18 December. The correction shows that until the week before Christmas, the Delta variant remained dominant.

“Setting aside the question of how the initial estimate was so inaccurate, if CDC’s new estimate of #Omicron prevalence is precise then it suggests that a good portion of the current hospitalizations we’re seeing from Covid may still be driven by Delta infections,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, posted on Twitter.

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The disparity in estimates, while confirming the rapid spread of Omicron, also speaks to relative lack of precision in detecting a new variant that can only be confirmed by genetic analysis.

The news comes as the US surpassed its all-time total for new cases, according to figures from Johns Hopkins, with the daily total soaring above 512,000. However, the numbers come with the caveat that many testing centers were closed over the holiday weekend, and a CDC spokesperson told Politico that the number was likely an “overestimate” due to a delay in state reporting.

Separately, the former US surgeon general Jerome Adams criticized the CDC for its revision Monday to cut Covid isolation periods from ten days to five.

“I love the CDC. Grew up wanting to work there and have been one of their most ardent defenders. I never dreamed the day would come when I would advise people NOT to follow their guidance,” Adams said in a tweet on Tuesday. “They wouldn’t even follow it for their own family.”

The CDC also announced Tuesday that the United States has administered 505,013,980 doses of the Covid-19 vaccines. The figures show that US health authorities have administered 1,533,313 doses from a day earlier.

The agency also estimated that more than 67 million people have received an additional dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine since 13 August, when the United States authorized a third dose of the vaccines for people with compromised immune systems.

Late Tuesday, NBC News reported that children have been hospitalized at nearly twice the rate of adults in the past 4 weeks.

According to analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data, the average number of children hospitalized with Covid-19 jumped 52%, from a low of 1,270 on 29 November to 1,933 on Sunday.

The analysis showed that states that have contributed the most to the rise in pediatric hospitalizations are Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

In the same time period, it said, adult Covid hospitalizations increased 29%.

The calculations come as Covid continues to wreak havoc across travel and other commercial sectors of the economy. 2,800 flights were canceled Tuesday, with more than 1,000 of them within, into or out of the United States, according to tracking website FlightAware.

Omicron’s rise has coincided with the holiday season, and new cases in the US are currently averaging more than 200,000 a day according to the CDC.

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