As the omicron approaches, the US is still struggling with the delta wave

While all the attention is focused on a new and little-studied variant of the omicron, the delta form of coronavirus has not yet finished wreaking havoc in the United States, sending record numbers of patients to hospitals in several states, especially in the Midwest and New England.

“Omicron is a spark that looms on the horizon. The Delta Option is the fire that’s here today, ”said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the State Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, where a record 334 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of mid-week.

On Wednesday, the United States reported the first known omicron infection in a fully vaccinated person who returned to California from South Africa, where the variant was first identified just over a week ago.

And a second US case was confirmed Thursday in Minnesota, involving a vaccinated man who was in New York. This suggests that the variant has begun to spread domestically.

But much is not known about the omicron, including whether it is more infectious than previous versions, whether it makes people worse, or more easily discourages vaccines, or destroys the immunity that people get from an attack of COVID-19.

The extrainfectious delta variant currently accounts for nearly all cases in the US and continues to cause distress at a time when many hospitals are grappling with a shortage of nurses and large numbers of patients undergoing procedures that were delayed at the onset of the pandemic. …

There are fears that Omicron will force more patients into hospitals, and maybe more.

“It’s really easy for me, I can’t imagine,” said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family doctor from Phoenix. – Will we see another burst of cases, even higher than what we are seeing now? What will this do to our health care system? What will this do to our hospitals? “

Two years after the outbreak began, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 780,000 Americans and the number of deaths is close to 900 per day.

U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths have roughly halved since the delta peaks in August and September, but with an estimated 86,000 new infections per day, those numbers are still alarming, especially ahead of the holidays when people travel and get together. with family.

With the onset of cold weather, when more and more people go to their homes, hospitals are under stress.

“The delta is not abating,” said Dr. Andre Kalil, an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Nebraska said Tuesday that 555 people in hospital with COVID-19 are the highest since last December, when vaccine introduction began.

Vermont recorded the highest rate since the start of the pandemic: 84. New Hampshire, once the leader in early vaccinations, is now second only to Michigan in terms of new cases per capita in the past two weeks.

In Minnesota, which has the third highest number of new cases per capita, the Pentagon sent medical teams to two major hospitals last month to help doctors and nurses inundated with COVID-19 patients.

“This fourth wave, I can state quite clearly, has hit Minnesota harder than any previous wave,” said Dr. Timothy Johnson, president of the Minnesota Branch of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

He said hospitals are struggling with a combination of nurse shortages, fatigue and patients receiving treatment that had to be delayed at the start of the crisis. “Now these chickens are returning home to spend the night for a while,” he said.

At the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where a military medical team was dispatched, the number of COVID-19 patients has doubled since September, although it remains below pandemic highs, spokeswoman Christine Hill said.

“And this is about the upcoming holidays,” she said.

Dr. Pauline Park, who treats critically ill patients at the University of Michigan Public Health in Ann Arbor, called the latest outbreak “heartbreaking.” One COVID-19 patient, a woman in her 20s, died during Thanksgiving. Another, a mother with young children, is in a car built to replace her lungs.

In Arizona, where students in dozens of classrooms have been quarantined, more than 3,100 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday – numbers similar to the disastrous summer of 2020. The volume of hospital beds fell to a pandemic low.

Bhuyan said her patient with a blood clot in her lung was discharged instead of being hospitalized. The rest of the patients wait for hours in the emergency room.

“It’s just complicated because it seems like we are actually going back in time, even though we have these vaccines, which are such a great weapon for us,” she said.

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