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The CDC now fears a massive January surge of COVID as Omicron cases spike 7-fold

December 15, 2021, 3:55 PM UTC

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could overrun the country within a month, which (along with continuing Delta infections and expected flu cases) could overwhelm health care facilities.

Omicron cases have increased sevenfold in the past week, bounding from 0.4% of U.S. cases to 2.9%. And in one of two scenarios the agency discussed in a briefing Tuesday, the United States could see a tidal wave of infections as soon as January.

The second scenario envisions a smaller surge in Omicron cases, which officials said could occur in the spring. The CDC did not say which scenario was more likely.

Federal health officials, though, told the Washington Post that the situation looked “daunting” and that the implications of a massive wave had to be taken seriously.

Omicron cases are already surging in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, which is on the cusp of becoming the global epicenter for the mutant variant, with daily infections spiking by hundreds of thousands.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has said it expects this variant to outpace Delta as it spreads. In South Africa, where the virus was first detected three weeks ago, officials say cases could already be nearing their peak, giving hope that this surge will be a short one.

Pharmaceutical companies are not leaning toward an Omicron-specific vaccine or booster. Their data, they say, indicates the original vaccines, when coupled with a booster shot, protects against serious Omicron-related illnesses. More tests are ongoing, though, to confirm those beliefs.

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