As Omicron Spreads, Governments Race to Ease Staff Shortages
Israel begins trials for a fourth vaccine shot to boost immunity among healthcare workers
Government leaders and advisers are assessing how best to respond to a surge of new Covid-19 infections from the fast-spreading Omicron variant, with the U.S. looking at ways to minimize staff shortages and prevent hospitals from becoming overrun with new cases, while Israel has begun testing a fourth shot of Covid-19 vaccine on medical personnel.
Initial evidence suggests the Omicron variant, first identified by South African epidemiologists last month, produced a milder disease than earlier Covid-19 strains, particularly in people who have been vaccinated.
But the speed with which it is spreading is presenting a different kind of challenge for policy makers, who are now weighing how to keep critical services functioning amid a wave of staff absences and enforced isolation periods.
The seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. reached 198,405 on Sunday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Many states haven’t reported new infections on some recent days because of the Christmas holidays. Those gaps and subsequent jumps as states bring recent infection data up-to-date are expected to complicate tracking of the Omicron variant’s spread for some time, public-health experts said.
(Bloomberg) — Global Covid-19 cases hit a daily record on Monday, disrupting the holiday season a year after vaccines first started rolling out and two years after the emergence of the virus that many hoped would be fleeting.
The rapidly spreading omicron variant is tearing through the region, leaving overturned holiday plans, canceled flights and sports events and performances, and scared and sick residents.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia all set records Monday, reporting the highest seven-day averages in new cases of any point during the pandemic.
In Virginia, 18,513 people tested positive over the three-day Christmas weekend and 25 died of covid-19. Maryland reported 5,376 new cases Monday, on top of more than 15,000 during the weekend, and has not yet returned to reporting deaths because of a cyberattack that affected the state’s heath department. The District reported 9,200 cases and two deaths from Dec. 23 to 26.