A spate of Covid-19 cases continued to test US hospitals, amid signs that a wave of infections sparked by the Omicron variant has peaked in other parts of the world.
The U.S. seven-day average hit a record Wednesday of 148,724 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The hospital admissions reflect the rapid pace of the current Covid-19 wave. Initial evidence indicated that Omicron is less likely than previous variants to cause serious illness, but hospitalizations are increasing due to the sheer number of new infections.
This week’s number of registered Covid-19 hospitalizations in the US rose above its previous record set last winter. Many people come to hospitals for other reasons, some hospital and state data shows, and then test positive for Covid-19. The seven-day average for reported cases in the US was more than 786,000 on Wednesday, according to a Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
In South Africa, the site of Omicron’s first major outbreak where the wave peaked last month, Health Secretary Joe Phaahla told a news conference that the rate of decline in infections had not been as fast as the rate of increase.
Waasila Jassat, a public health specialist with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said hospitalizations in the Omicron wave peaked at 60% of the Delta wave and deaths at about 15%. Most admissions and deaths were from unvaccinated people.
dr. Jassat said the reason for Omicron’s lower severity than previous variants was still questionable. She said possible responses were a combination of previous infection and vaccination, and because it manifested itself primarily in the upper respiratory tract, unlike previous variants that affected the lungs more.
In France, the number of new cases has declined, with the number of people who tested positive in the seven days ending January 10 being 37% higher than a week earlier, according to government data. That compares with an increase of 112% in the previous week. The number of cases may be starting to peak in the Paris region, in the parts of the country first hit by Omicron. There, about 3,900 inhabitants per 100,000 tested positive for the corona virus in the week ending January 10, 15% more than a week earlier. That’s below a record high of 4,124 per 100,000 for the week ending Jan. 8, although it will take several days to see if the trend continues.
In France, an average of 2,235 people have been hospitalized with Covid-19 every day for the past seven days, an increase of 14% week-over-week, but still below the rates seen during the first and second wave of Covid-19. 19 last year.
The seven-day average of new daily cases of Covid-19 in the UK has been falling for more than a week, falling below the 14-day average on Tuesday for the first time since November, according to a Journal analysis of official data. Both are signs that the caseload is decreasing.
The rate of increase in new Covid-19 hospitalizations has also slowed and in England – and especially London, which has experienced the Omicron wave earlier than other regions – new Covid-19 hospitalizations are falling.
In Greece, daily infections have fallen sharply over the past week, but are still more than six times higher than in mid-December. This week, the government approved a fourth vaccine shot for people with compromised immune systems, such as people fighting cancer and transplant recipients.
In Italy, health authorities said Omicron was responsible for 81% of new infections in Italy on Jan. 3. The total number of hospital admissions is approaching 20,000, of which 1,700 are in intensive care units. That compares to just 6,000 hospitalizations in early December and 700 in intensive care units. Italy recorded 316 deaths on Thursday, the highest number since April.
Italian hospitals have begun delaying some surgeries and other medical procedures as they become overwhelmed by the number of Covid-19 patients. Milan reopened on Friday a temporary hospital with more than 200 intensive care beds that was built during the first wave of the virus in early 2020.
Italy has made vaccination or recent recovery from Covid-19 a requirement for almost all sporting, cultural and recreational activities, as well as taking most public transport and plane.
Spain has followed a similar trajectory to Italy, with the current wave of infections starting in early December. The number of daily infections has increased more than 10 times since then.
—Eric Sylvers in Milan and Sam Schechner in Paris contributed to this article.
write to Stacy Meichtry at [email protected]
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