Several universities were forced to move final exams online, Apple shut down some of its stores temporarily, and long lines formed at many testing clinics in New York City -- scenes reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic… as the threat of a the new wave of covid-19 brought renewed disruption.
A jump in positive tests has also left three major North American sports leagues scrambling to control outbreaks.
While the Delta variant remains responsible for the vast majority of U.S. cases, Omicron has turned up in at least 36 states… and the numbers growing fast..
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky:
"We expect to see the proportion of Omicron cases here in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks. Early data suggests that Omicron is more transmissible than Delta, with a doubling time of about two days…”
While much is still not known about the new variant, White House officials said the country would not go back into lockdown and grades schools would remain open, saying existing tools like indoor masking and boosters put the country in a much better position than a year ago.
Health officials elsewhere where striking a more dire tone. In the U.K.- which hit it s highest number of daily cases at any time during the pandemic- Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said Omicron was a serious threat.
"It is moving at an absolutely phenomenal pace.”
And in Canada, top health officials advised against international travel…
Canada's Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos: "We know this may sound very drastic to many listening, but we must avoid overloading our hospital system and our healthcare workers."
One positive development - Dr. Anthony Fauci Wednesday said Booster doses of currently available COVID-19 vaccines work against Omicron and there appears to be no need for a variant-specific booster.
Though without the booster, all three U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines appear to be significantly less protective against Omicron in laboratory testing than against previous variants.