The World Health Organization reported that nearly 10 million new COVID cases were recorded around the world during the first week of January, breaking all previous records. An additional 45,000 new deaths were also added to the heartbreaking toll.
WHO officials warned that the Omicron will likely not be the last variant surge that humanity experiences. They advise that half of all residents of Europe could soon be infected with the Omicron variant as if overtaken by an unstoppable tidal wave. Not surprising, some countries like Chile, Brazil and Israel have begun authorizing a second booster shot, the fourth overall, to fight off the surge in cases.
Separately, the WHO announced that it has delivered over 1 billion doses to 144 poorer countries around the world, acknowledging that no one is safe from the virus until everyone is protected. A total of 10 billion doses have been delivered by all parties around the world using more than 20 different vaccines. This is an amazing heartwarming milestone that 60% of the world’s population, some 4.8 billion people, have received at least one dose.
New daily cases in the US are running a staggering 500,000 to over 1,000,000. One month into the new surge, hospitalizations are also on the rise surpassing 140,000. Most patients remain the unvaccinated. Officials are estimating that the current wave of infections may add another 150,000 fatalities and ultimately push total death toll in the US to over 1 million by early spring. One million. Unbelievable.
Nearly a quarter of all hospitals around the country are now reporting critical conditions with staff shortages. Many facilities are postponing non-emergency procedures and rerouting arriving patients to other facilities. While most patients are not as ill as in previous waves, the number hospitalized is larger, approaching 150,000 nationally. As a result, routine healthcare treatments are being lost which will result in more illness and deaths
Ignoring the facts of the situation, Republicans like Missouri Governor Mike Parson has declared victory and an end to the COVID emergency within his state. This despite the state being very much in the middle of an emergency with scarce testing, rising cases, record hospitalizations, and more sick children in classrooms without a mandate to wear masks. Republican governors in other conservative states are trying to outdo each other in their state-of-the-state annual addresses where they rail against public health measures and spread more disinformation to their constituents, many who are dying from the lies of their officials who were elected in part to keep them safe.
Across the country the political and ideological gap continues to widen with Republican state legislatures targeting mask mandates, testing, vaccinations, and other rational precautions. What the hell happened to the conservative party that was once about protecting America from deadly invaders? They have turned what being conservative means upside down in pandering to their anti-science base, which they are throwing under the bus.
The Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration’s mandate that employees of large businesses be required to either get vaccinated or be tested regularly and wear a mask. The vote was along ideological grounds, as expected, with the conservatives saying the president and OSHA had overstepped its authority to impose these requirements without supporting legislation. Yet, if elected representatives in Congress or at the state level had voted for this, these same conservatives would have said that was not permissible either. Because they really don’t want government to do anything, even when it costs the lives of millions of Americans.
By the middle of the month, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all rising dramatically across the country. Case counts are racing toward 1 million per day and deaths are over 1,700 a day, numbers not seen since early last year. Hospitalizations across parts of the country have now exceeded the peaks of previous waves, but thankfully most patients are not as ill. Some locales and facilities are facing a decision to ration care under crisis-care conditions with rising patient loads and sick staffs.
Yet, more than 15% of the American population remains defiant to getting vaccinated as millions around them get sick and thousands die. There is no amount of persuasion, science, facts, pleading or watching others die that will make them change their mind. And many will sadly die from their decisions as more than 90% of patients in hospitals are unvaccinated. It is such a small sacrifice to ask of them to keep themselves, their families, communities, and country safe at work or at school.
We are not asking anyone to storm the beaches of Normandy, but to simply walk into a damn Walgreens or CVS to get vaccinated.
The ability of Omicron to breakthrough and reinfect previously infected or vaccinated people has officials worried that this will create a “farm” of millions for yet more variants to evolve. The longer the virus circulates and the more people it infects, the greater the odds it will meet factors which cause it to incubate and mutate more freely.
The pandemic has caused a new peak in deaths not only from COVID but also from overdose of both legal and illegal drugs like fentanyl. Some cities like St. Louis actually reported more deaths last year from overdoses than from COVID.
President Biden announces that his administration will send 10 million more COVID tests to schools across the country. Unfortunately, it will be too late to help ward off the Omicron wave which is crushing the country.
The White House has also announced the federal government will purchase 1 billion home test kits. A new federal website begins operating to allow each household to order up to 4 at-home tests.
New studies have confirmed that booster shots are both very effective and very much needed to ward off illness from the Omicron variant. Three shots of the mRNA vaccines provide about 67% effectiveness against symptomatic disease compared to unvaccinated people.
Numerous international health experts are claiming that by examining excess deaths from what would normally be expected without a pandemic, the actual deaths due to COVID may be up to 4 times those of the officially confirmed count of 5.5 million. As example, Russia has reported only 300,000 COVID-19 deaths but excess mortality records suggest the actual number is closer to 1 million.
In an irony of all times, over 70% of vaccinated Americans say they wear a mask around others. Less than 40% of the unvaccinated say they do, despite being the ones at the greatest risk of illness or passing the virus to someone else. Go figure.
As the month ends the daily new cases have started to fall to around 500,000 per day from a peak of over 1,000,000 some days earlier in the month. But deaths are still high, averaging at 2,500 per day, surpassing the Delta variant peak of last fall, yet still below the all-time peak of 3,300. The total US death count is about 880,000 lost souls.
The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.
The featured image is from the CDC COVID Data Tracker showing trends in the number of daily cases.