Researchers say they are seeing signs that the highly contagious omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus may have peaked in the United Kingdom and could well be on track to do the same in the United States.
Scientists are beginning to see that the variant that is so contagious may have infected enough people that it can no longer find a host.
“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, told The Associated Press.
Models produced by the University of Washington project that the number of daily reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. should reach its peak of 1.2 million by Jan. 19.
It will then fall sharply, the model predicts, “simply because everybody who could be infected will be infected,” Mokdad said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before Congress on Tuesday, saying that he, too, believes that the omicron variant will infect “just about everyone.”
Fauci reminded legislators that those who have been vaccinated, especially those with three doses of the vaccine, should “do reasonably well,” and avoid hospitalization and death.
Those who are unvaccinated are 10 times likelier to be infected and 20 times more likely to die from the virus, Fauci said.
Other health officials have been warning that omicron attacks at different rates in different parts of the country, and people should be vigilant in their precautions against the virus.
“There are still a lot of people who will get infected as we descend the slope on the backside,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told the AP.
Meyers said the UT model also predicts that reported cases will peak within the week.
The thought that cases would be going down is hard for some to see as the number of Americans who are currently in hospitals with COVID-19 continues to set daily records.
In the U.S., more than 140,000 were hospitalized with the virus in the past week.
The daily average case number rose to 761,122, up 185% from two weeks ago, while the daily average for COVID-19-related deaths is up 40% from two weeks ago to 1,736, according to The New York Times COVID-19 tracker.
While the numbers in the U.S. are staggering, scientists in the United Kingdom and Africa have reported a dramatic drop in reported cases over the past few days in those countries.
The potential good news is that the infectious variant is being well-managed by people who have been vaccinated, which could signal the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
“At the end of this wave, far more people will have been infected by some variant of COVID,” Meyers said. “At some point, we’ll be able to draw a line — and omicron may be that point — where we transition from what is a catastrophic global threat to something that’s a much more manageable disease.”
“We are seeing a definite falling-off of cases in the U.K., but I’d like to see them fall much further before we know if what happened in South Africa will happen here,” Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia, told the AP.
It took a little more than a month for the omicron variant to peak in South Africa, before the number of reported cases fell significantly.
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