Americans face an uncertain and anxiety-filled holiday season for the second consecutive year, as the highly contagious Omicron variant threatens to intensify an already alarming surge of COVID-19 cases.
Several Broadway SHOWS have been forced to close, big employers are sending people home, professional sports teams are scrambling to contain outbreaks and Holidays parties are getting canceled again.
At the White House Thursday, U. S. President Joe Biden was back to wearing a mask indoors and warned that the Omicron variant is going to spread rapidly and that a bleak winter awaits the unvaccinated.
“We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death…”
Public health officials are worried that hospitals, still fighting the effects of the Delta variant, could find themselves stretched beyond their limits.
According to a Reuters tall over the past month, new cases have risen nearly 40% to 121,000 new infections per day. Deaths are up 18 percent and COVID hospitalizations up 45 percent.
Mayor Bill de Blasio Said New York City would distribute a million free masks and 500,000 at-home tests.
"It is clear that the Omicron variant is here in New York City in full force, and we are announcing a series of measures to address this situation. Obviously, we knew Omicron was here and we knew it was going to be more of a presence in our city. It's now quite clear that it is."
In South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark, the number of new Omicron infections has been doubling every two days.
Britain recorded nearly 80,000 new cases on Wednesday, its highest single-day total since the pandemic began, and officials there have warned that hospital admissions could soon hit record levels.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said on Thursday that the Omicron variant would soon dominate infections in the United States.
Preliminary data suggests Omicron may be more contagious than Delta but less likely to cause severe illness, though much remains unknown.
Research also indicates that the two-dose vaccine regimens have vastly reduced protection against Omicron but that a third booster dose restores much of the vaccine's efficacy.