The number of new cases of Covid-19 in New York has increased by more than twenty in December. Over the past few days, he has flattened out.
In New Jersey and Maryland, the number of new cases declined slightly this week. In several large cities, the number is also showing signs of stabilization.
In Boston, the amount of the Covid virus detected in sewage, which has been a leading indicator of case trends in the past, has plunged about 40% since its peak just after January 1.
“We really try never to make predictions about this virus because it always puts us on a loop,” Dr Shira Doron, epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, told GBH News. “But at least the sewage suggests a steep drop, and so we hope that means cases will drop sharply as well, and then hospitalizations and deaths will follow.”
As Doron suggested, it’s too early to be sure the Omicron wave has peaked even in areas with encouraging data – which tend to be where Omicron first arrived in the United States. But there are good reasons to consider the most likely scenario. “Looks like we may be reaching this peak,” Governor Kathy Hochul of New York City said this week.
(Look for cases for your county here.)
Huge rise in cases lasting around a month followed by rapid drop would be consistent with experience in some places Omicron arrived earlier than in the United States In South Africa, daily new cases have declined about 70 percent from the peak in mid-December. The graph showing the recent trend for South Africa looks like a thin, upside down letter V.
In Britain, where pandemic trends are often a few weeks ahead of those in the United States, cases peaked just after the New Year and have declined somewhat since:
With previous versions of Covid, like the Delta variant, the ascent and descent cycles tended to last longer. Once an epidemic began, cases often increased for about two months before decreasing.
Scientists don’t fully understand the cycles of Covid, but the explanation likely involves a combination of the virus’s biological qualities and the size of a typical human social network. After about two months, an epidemic of earlier variants began to die out, as would a forest fire.
Omicron is so contagious that it spreads faster. This rapid spread can also mean that it reaches most of the people who are likely to be infected with it faster. Omicron’s brief boom and bust cycle is now “a familiar pattern,” says Joseph Allen of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, Recount The Associated Press said he believed the actual number of cases in the United States – including those not shown in any official tally – had already peaked, possibly last week. “It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” he predicted.
A bumpy descent
To be clear, the current emergency is not about to end. Cases seem to only peak in places where Omicron arrived early, mainly in the northeast. In much of the country, cases continue to increase.
Already some hospitals are overwhelmed, and hospitalization trends are often lower than case counts by about a week. Death trends tend to delay by a few more weeks. “It’s going to be a tough two or three weeks,” Mokdad said. The United States appears to be on track for a horrific amount of serious illness in the coming weeks, mostly among the unvaccinated.
(Related: United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said while 3,000 employees recently tested positive for the virus, no vaccinated employees were hospitalized. This is a big change. Before the company did ‘enacts a vaccination mandate, on average more than one United Airlines each week an employee died of Covid.)
Still, the beginning of the end of the Omicron Wave – if it turns out to be real – would be very good news.
This would mean that a milder variant had become the dominant form of Covid but no longer caused an increase in overwhelming cases and hospitals. This would mean that tens of millions of Americans would have developed additional immunity as a result of infection with Omicron. This would mean the country would have taken a big step towards a future in which Covid is an endemic disease like the flu, rather than a pandemic that dominates life.
Lauren Ancel Meyers, who leads a Covid analysis project at the University of Texas, said people may soon see Omicron as a turning point. “At some point we can draw a line – and Omicron could be that point – where we go from what is a catastrophic global threat to something that is a much more manageable disease,” she told the ‘AP.
Of course, as we should all have learned by now, Covid could also surprise again. Another possibility, Meyers said, is that a dangerous new variant could emerge this spring. This result is both improbable and plausible, which is always a difficult combination to understand.
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Where does this sweater come from?
What if we could read the labels on our clothes the same way we read the labels on our food? It’s starting to happen: transparency and traceability reach the labels on the rack.
The idea dates back at least to 2019, when an English knitwear brand introduced a label on its sweaters that allowed customers to see where their merino wool came from, writes Dana Thomas in The Times. More recently, a sustainable Nashville brand added something that looks a lot like a nutrition label, showing how the making of their shoes affects the workers involved and the environment.
Here’s how it works and why it’s worth knowing where your clothes are coming from. – Claire Moses, a morning writer