Omicron May Already Be Peaking in These States, Expert Says

Certain areas may already be about to move past the latest variant.

In the roughly six weeks since its discovery, the highly contagious Omicron variant has surpassed the previously dominant Delta in the U.S. The result has been an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases past the heights seen last winter, with the national daily average spiking by 215 percent over the past two weeks to 677,243, as of Jan. 9, according to data from The New York Times. But almost as quickly as the variant's post-holiday surge began, at least one top expert is now predicting that Omicron may already be peaking in certain states and could start dropping soon. Read on to see which places may be about to move past the latest viral wave.

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Omicron may already be peaking in states and major cities along the East Coast.

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During a Jan. 9 appearance on CBS's Face the Nation, Scott Gottlieb, MD, former commissioner of the Food & Drug Administration, discussed how surprised he was to have seen the latest viral offshoot spread so quickly and defy predictions that Delta would be the "last major wave" of COVID-19. But he predicted that states and major cities along the Eastern Seaboard might already have reached the highest caseloads of infections from Omicron and could soon see numbers drop.

"If you look what's happening across the East Coast right now in New York City, Washington, D.C., Maryland, probably Florida as well have already peaked, maybe Delaware and Rhode Island," Gottlieb said. "You're going to start to see that in the statistics this week. You're going to start to see those curves as epidemic curves bend down. You already see that in New York City and Washington, D.C."

States in the Midwest may be about to see a surge of cases from the variant.

A young man getting a nasal swab from a healthcare worker as part of a COVID-19 test
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But despite his optimistic outlook for the East Coast, Gottlieb stopped short of saying we had seen the last of the latest variant. Instead, he predicted that the wave of infections could be moving on to states in the center of the U.S. in the coming weeks.

"The risk right now is to the Midwest, where you have rising infection, where they aren't in the thick of their Omicron wave yet," he warned. "And you have states that had high hospitalization rates going into this. They had a lot of Delta infection. They had been coming out of their Delta wave, so their hospital census was already high. And now they're seeing Omicron infections pick up."

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Other top officials agree with the prediction that Omicron may be peaking in some states.

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Gottlieb wasn't alone in his prediction that the surge of the latest variant may be about to crest. During a Jan. 7 interview with NBC affiliate News 4 New York, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, admitted he is hopeful that the Omicron wave will break by the end of this month.

"I would hope—I can't predict accurately, because no one can‚ but I would hope that by the time we get to the fourth week in January—end of the third week, beginning of the fourth week—that we will start to see this coming down," Fauci said.

However, he also clarified that cases will likely continue to go up until the wave breaks. According to Fauci, the U.S. could potentially start regularly hitting one million new infections a day over the next week or so before Omicron hits its final national peak. The country hit this record for the first time ever on Jan. 3, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. "It's still surging upward. We had about 745,000 cases yesterday. I would not be surprised at all if we go over a million cases per day," Fauci told News 4.

Rising hospitalizations have renewed urgency from officials for the public to get vaccinated and boosted.

Medical staff work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 multiple patients inside a special hospital in Bergamo, on November 11, 2020.
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Fortunately, both Gottlieb and Fauci pointed out that while the latest version of the virus appears to be as transmissible as was initially feared, it also tends to cause less severe disease in those it infects, especially if they are fully vaccinated. But in a Jan. 7 interview on NBC's Today, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, warned that the U.S. has likely not yet seen Omicron peak. She cited a 63 percent rise in hospitalizations to about 14,800 a day and a five percent spike in deaths from the disease to about 1,200 over the previous week as cause for concern.

"I will say that our hospitals right now are full of people who are unvaccinated and that you are 17 times more likely to be in a hospital and 20 times more likely to die if you're unvaccinated compared to if you're boosted," she explained. "There's a lot we can do in this moment, getting vaccinated, getting boosted. We have 99 percent of our counties in high transmission, wear your mask in public indoor settings."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says This Is How the Pandemic Will End Now.

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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