US Coronavirus: Nation could be in store for a ‘grim beginning’ to the new year, experts warn, as dual variants of Covid-19 spread
As the virus spreads, more cities are adding restrictions, including New York and Washington, DC.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced an indoor mask mandate for the District will be reinstated starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday, December 21 through January 31.
The announcement comes as DC has been experiencing its highest daily coronavirus case count since the start of the pandemic.
Bowser also said she plans to reinstate the District’s state of emergency and announced a six-part action plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the city is testing “more people than ever” for Covid-19 and city officials are working with federal officials and the private sector to get more testing supplies. Officials are also working to get more in-home test kits to offer to people as an alternative testing option.
De Blasio also spoke about the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.
However, de Blasio said city officials are reviewing plans for the event in light of Omicron and said if plans need to be modified in any way, the announcement will come sometime this week before Christmas.
Experts discuss what’s next
Collins suggested the impact of that level of spread on an already stressed health care system remains uncertain.
“The big question is, are those million cases going to be sick enough to need health care and especially hospitalization?” Collins said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, his last day as NIH director.
“If we’re going to deal with Omicron successfully, vaccinated people need to get boosted,” Fauci told NBC on Sunday.
Recent data are demonstrating the potential dangers of remaining unvaccinated, including a 10-times greater risk of testing positive and 20-times greater risk of dying from Covid-19 than those vaccinated and boosted, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data through October.
Omicron will lead to a spike in cases in the upcoming weeks, but those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated will have a “stark difference” in experience, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told anchor Tony Dokoupil on “CBS Mornings” Monday.
“In the coming weeks, Tony, we are going to see a spike in cases. And that’s because Omicron is incredibly transmissible, and you know, we have to be prepared for that,” Murthy said. “But there will be a stark difference between the experience of those who are vaccinated and boosted versus those who are unvaccinated.”
People who have maximum protection from vaccines and boosters either won’t get an infection, or if they do, it will most likely be mild, said Murthy.
States responding to outbreaks
There’s generally about a three-week lag behind Covid-19 case trends and hospitalizations, according to a CNN Health analysis, but officials are hopeful the state will be in a more favorable position than last year.
“This is not March of 2020, we are not defenseless,” Hochul said. “We have the tools to protect ourselves and the vulnerable loves ones in our families: Get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask when indoors or in large gatherings. Don’t take a chance during the winter surge.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that the state has been preparing for a winter surge and hopes to combat Covid-19 spread with measures including state-issued at-home testing and flexing beds within hospitals. Bringing in health care workers from other states has been key as well, Sununu said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan predicted that the state will see “probably the worst surge we’ve seen in our hospitals throughout the entire crisis” over the next three to five weeks, telling “Fox News Sunday” that officials are “trying to do everything we can to get the last 9.2% of our population vaccinated.”
Lockdowns are not being considered, he said, and decried a return to remote learning in schools since protocols currently in place should be sufficient.
Schools and sports are making changes
Citing the “uncertainty” around the Omicron variant, Stanford University announced it is shifting to online instruction for the first two weeks of the upcoming winter quarter, slated to begin January 3.
Harvard University is also moving to remote learning for the first three weeks of January classes, stating in an open letter that the move was “prompted by the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.”
Five NBA games have been postponed as several teams in the league have numerous players under Covid-19 health and safety protocols. More than a dozen games in NCAA men’s basketball have been canceled or postponed.
Moderna: Data suggests larger booster dose increases antibodies
Biotechnology company Moderna announced Monday that preliminary data suggests its half-dose booster shot increased antibody levels against Omicron compared with the levels seen when a fully vaccinated person does not receive a booster — but a larger-sized dose of the booster increases antibody levels even more.
Currently, Moderna’s booster is administered as a 50-microgram dose. The company announcement noted that its 50-microgram booster dose increased antibody levels 37-fold and a 100-microgram booster dose increased antibody levels 83-fold compared with levels seen before a booster.
It remains unclear what these increases mean as far as how well the booster doses clinically work against Omicron.
“The dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant is concerning to all. However, these data showing that the currently authorized Moderna COVID-19 booster can boost neutralizing antibody levels 37-fold higher than pre-boost levels are reassuring,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in the company’s announcement.
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Naomi Thomas, Deidre McPhillips, Artemis Moshtaghian, Gregory Lemos, Keith Allen, Sarah Moon, Andy Rose, DJ Judd, Sarah Fortinsky, Jacob Lev, Holden Perrelli, Riuki Gakio and Niah Humphrey contributed to this report.