There’s good news about this Omicron phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and bad news, but much of it is based on educated guesses and the good and bad often blur together. One bit of good news, The Associated Press reports, is that “scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19’s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.”
“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” says Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington, whose influential model predicts that daily cases will peak at 1.2 million by Jan. 19 then start plummeting, he says, “simply because everybody who could be infected will be infected.”
“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now,” acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock told a Senate panel on Tuesday, “which is most people are going to get COVID.” People should try to avoid infection, but as a society the priority right now should be to “make sure the hospitals can still function” and protect “other essential services as this variant sweeps through the population,” she added. “I don’t think that will last a really long time.”
Where we are now, The Wall Street Journal reports, is record-high averages of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, but significantly below-peak ICU occupancy and deaths.
“There are still a lot of people who will get infected as we descend the slope on the backside,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, whose University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium predicts reported cases will peak within the week, tells AP. “At the end of this wave, far more people will have been infected by some variant of COVID,” she added, but “Omicron may be that point where we transition from what is a catastrophic global threat to something that’s a much more manageable disease.”
Or, Ancel Meyers says, a variant worse than Omicron could strike next.
“As Americans push into a third winter of viral discontent,” The Washington Post reports, “a strange unity of confusion is emerging, a common inability to decipher conflicting advice and clashing guidelines coming from government, science, health, media, and other institutions.” For example, the Post says, “in liberal and conservative media alike, countervailing voices alternately raise and dash hopes that the pandemic endgame is nigh.” And many Americans are tuning out the muddled messages and managing the best they can.