U.S. sets new record for daily COVID-19 cases as omicron variant dominates

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The average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. hit a record high seven-day average of more than 282,000 on Wednesday as health officials struggle to contain the more transmissible omicron variant.

As of Wednesday morning, the seven-day average of new infections topped 282,117, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 database. That shatters the previous record of roughly 250,000 on Jan. 11.

The grim news comes just days after the U.S. hit its highest single-day total of new COVID-19 infections, with 512,553 logged on Monday.

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“The rapid increase of cases we are seeing across the country is in large part a reflection of the exceptionally transmissible omicron variant,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House press briefing.

“We expect [omicron] will continue to circulate in the coming weeks,” Dr. Walensky said.

The omicron variant has become the most dominant, and is estimated to be responsible for roughly 59% of infections in the U.S.

More children are also being hospitalized with COVID-19, officials said, but said any conclusions about the level of severity in children is unclear.

The U.S. is averaging 260 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations per day, up 30% from last week. Cities like New York and Philadelphia have logged a significant uptick in the number of pediatric hospitalizations.

Despite the surge, overall hospitalizations have not increased at the same pace as new infections because omicron’s symptoms are much milder than the delta variant.

The seven-day average of hospital admissions is roughly 9,000 per day, a 14% increase from the previous week. However, testing sites closed for the Christmas holiday may have artificially deflated those numbers.

“This could be due to the fact that hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases by about two weeks, but also may be due to early indications that we’ve seen from Africa and the United Kingdom of milder disease from omicron, especially among the vaccinated and boosted,” Dr. Walensky said.

The surge is gaining speed while many Americans gather with families and loved ones for the holidays. Air travel this year is up 75% from 2020, and increased 7% from 2019, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration.

As Americans finished their Christmas celebrations, their attention has turned to New Year’s Eve gatherings on Friday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, warned against lavish New Year’s Eve parties this year. He said smaller gatherings with family members who are vaccinated and boosted are a much safer alternative.

“If your plans are to go to a 40-to-50 person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everyone hugging and kissing and wishing each other a Happy New Year, I would strongly recommend that this year we do not do that,” he said.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

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