New U.S. data shows that the daily average deaths from the Omicron wave are exceeding the peaks driven by the Delta surge, which was the previous dominant variant. Data from John Hopkins University shows that the seven-day average for daily reported Covid-19 deaths reached 2,258 last Tuesday — the highest number since February of 2021. The data is a troubling and tragic reminder that just because many Americans are “over” the pandemic, the pandemic itself is not yet over.
While research suggests the Omicron variant is not as severe as previous variants, its high degree of transmission means it effects far more people. That increases the odds of a severe case and in a country like the U.S. with a relatively low vaccination rate, those odds are even higher. Europe, which has higher vaccination rates than the U.S., is seeing fewer deaths from the Omicron wave than earlier pandemic phases had.
“Milder does not mean mild and we cannot look past the strain on our health systems and substantial number of deaths,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Wall Street Journal. “I know many people are tired, but many of our hospitals are still struggling beyond capacity.”
Data suggests that the Omicron variant may be able to sneak through some Covid-19 vaccines, but those vaccines are still effective at preventing a severe case. Portugal has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with about 90 percent of its population fully immunized. While its case numbers are soaring with an average of 50,000 people testing positive a day, its death toll has remained very low, with only about 40 Covid-19 deaths a day.
The news in the U.S. isn’t all bad. Covid-19 hospitalizations are declining from their Omicron wave peak, and Covid-19 deaths aren’t far behind. The cases numbers are declining on coastal areas, but that’s no reason to stop being vigilant. In previous waves, a decline in populous areas like New York City and Los Angeles was followed by a surge in less vaccinated parts of the country.