The Omicron wave is breaking, but deaths, which are weeks behind cases, have surpassed the Delta wave numbers and continue to rise across much of the country.
In 14 states, the average daily death toll is higher now than it was two weeks ago. These are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
Since November 24, when South Africa first reported the Omicron variant to the World Health Organization, the United States has confirmed more than 30,163,600 new infections and more than 154,750 new death. (While the United States initially did not identify any cases of Omicron within its borders until December 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since confirmed that the variant has been in the country for at least a week. earlier.)
For comparison, from August 1 to October 31, a similar span covering the worst of the Delta surge in the United States, the country confirmed 10,917,590 new infections and 132,616 new deaths.
This causes the official case to count about 176% more during the Omicron wave than during the equivalent-length Delta period. (The actual number of cases is even higher because, more than during the Delta wave, many people used home tests whose results are not included in government statistics.) The death toll during the Omicron wave is about 17% higher. so far as the death toll in the Delta wave.
On the one hand, the discrepancy between the increase in cases and the increase in deaths reflects the somewhat lower virulence of Omicron compared to previous variants, as well as the fact that Omicron is much more likely to cause infections. breakthroughs in vaccinated people, who are much less likely to die. from it than unvaccinated people. Deaths also remain lower than last winter’s wave, before vaccines became widely available: 233,102 deaths were reported from November 24, 2020 to February 18, 2021, compared to 154,757 from November 24, 2021 to February 18. 2022. .
But the painful absolute numbers — more than 150,000 dead Americans who would otherwise have lived — underscore the country’s continued vulnerability. Many people with disabilities or chronic illnesses remain at high risk even after vaccination. And when the number of infections is as astronomical as 30 million, even a tiny death rate will mean a catastrophic death toll.
Nationally, deaths have started to decline and are down 13% from two weeks ago. But an average of about 2,300 people – more than Hurricane Katrina’s death toll – still die every day.
Sarah Cahalan contributed report.