This Is Where Omicron Will Surge Next, Virus Expert Warns

The latest variant has already become the most dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S.

Barely a month after it was first discovered, the Omicron variant has managed to become the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S. Research has already found that the latest version of the virus is both more transmissible than Delta and also makes currently available vaccines less effective against infection. Now, some experts are warning that the coming months will likely bring a new surge as Omicron spreads. Read on to see where they believe the latest viral offshoot will spike.

RELATED: 70 Percent of Hospitalized Omicron Patients Have This in Common.

Experts warn that the surge Omicron creates will be a "national viral blizzard."

A woman getting a nasal swab from a healthcare worker as part of a COVID-19 test
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During an interview with CNN on Dec. 20, Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, warned that conditions were in place to create a "perfect storm" for the latest variant to drive up cases. However, he explained that this increase would likely not be limited to specific areas as previous spikes have tended to be.

"Instead of seeing the regional surges we were seeing with Delta—much of the West right now is very low level with Delta, parts of the South—I think Omicron is going to be a national viral blizzard," he said.

The COVID surge will likely put a serious strain on healthcare systems across the U.S.

Doctor in protective suit diagnosing COVID patient on bed in hospital
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Osterholm pointed out that waning immunity from initial vaccine doses made boosters essential in fighting off the latest variant. But as only 61.5 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated—and only about 30 percent of those people have received their booster—it may be too late to cover the 14-day lapse required for third shots to establish their full effectiveness. And as Omicron cases have been doubling every 1.5 to three days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Osterholm believes transmission of the virus is about to skyrocket.

"Even though more people who get it have milder illness, so many more people, overall, will get it that I think we are going to see a real challenge in our health care systems over the course of the next three to eight weeks," Osterholm said. "And what really is challenging is, on top of that, we can expect 10 percent to 30 percent of health care workers to get infected during that time."

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Top health officials have also been warning that winter could see cases surge as Omicron spreads.

COVID-19 Nasal swab laboratory test in hospital lab
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Osterholm isn't the only one sounding the alarm on an impending surge of causes fueled by Omicron. During an appearance on CNN's State of the Union on Dec. 19, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, gave a grim outlook when asked by host Jake Tapper whether he expected to see record-high numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the disease due to the arrival of the latest variant.

"Yes, well, unfortunately, Jake, I think that that is going to happen," Fauci predicted. "We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination, which is one of the reasons why we continue to stress the importance of getting those unvaccinated people vaccinated."

"It is going to be tough," Fauci admitted. "We can't walk away from that, Jake. We can't because with Omicron that we're dealing with, it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter."

Other top officials expressed optimism that we could slow the spread of the virus using familiar tactics.

Doctor giving a senior woman a vaccination. Virus protection.
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While Omicron's position as the dominant variant appears to be fulfilling the predictions of many experts, some top officials saw the arrival of the latest viral offshoot as the latest challenge the pandemic has thrown down—and one that we're better equipped to fight.

"This is not March of 2020, we are not defenseless," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a press conference on Dec. 20. "We have the tools to protect ourselves and the vulnerable loved 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."

During an appearance on CNN's New Day on Dec. 21, Fauci also offered some guidance for the coming days. "If you are going to be going to a function, a dinner, and you're vaccinated, hopefully, and boosted, but you want to go the extra step … you should do that," he advised. "Also, if you're in a situation where you may have been exposed to someone, you might want to get tested a few days later to make sure that you're in a situation when you have not been infected."

RELATED: These Are the Symptoms of the Omicron Variant, South African Doctor Says.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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