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Study Shows Omicron 91% Less Deadly Than Delta, Experts Say 'Virus Is on Its Way to Becoming Endemic'

01-13-2022
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A worker at a drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic administers PCR coronavirus tests in Washington state as drivers wait several hours for testing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A worker at a drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic administers PCR coronavirus tests in Washington state as drivers wait several hours for testing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

President Biden is expected to send a thousand military medical teams to six states to help hospitals overwhelmed by COVID. 

As global infections from omicron continue to set new records, there's some encouraging news showing that the variant is not as deadly as the delta strain.

In a study of 70,000 people in California, researchers found that 91% of patients with omicron were less likely to die and were half as likely to be hospitalized than those who had the delta strain.

"Given the sheer number of cases, we may see deaths from omicron, but I suspect the deaths that we're seeing now are still from delta," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's the first major study of its kind and it also shows that those infected with omicron spent less time in the hospital and not even one in the study needed a ventilator.

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But a word of caution:

"The problem is that for unvaccinated people or people that have not gotten boosted that are high risk, they're still getting quite sick from this, but it does show omicron seems to have less of an effect on lung disease - that's hopeful," said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health in Providence, R.I.

Still, the virus continues to rage around the world and at a fast pace.

"This huge spike in infections is being driven by the omicron variant, which is rapidly replacing delta in almost all countries," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a COVID press conference Wednesday in Geneva.

The World Health Organization warns that a record 15 million new COVID-19 infections were reported across the globe in a single week.

"Our health care systems around the world are significantly overburdened," warned Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, with WHO.

The U.S. alone saw a record 73% increase in cases last week compared to the prior week. Some 750,000 people are now getting infected each day with omicron making up 98% of the new infections.

The CDC released a stunning map showing almost every county in the country reporting COVID cases since December.

"Virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected. But if you're vaccinated, and if you're boosted the chances of your getting sick are very low," White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Meanwhile, federal health officials are urging Americans to replace their cloth masks with KN95 or N95 masks if possible, for better protection. 

The good news is that in places like New York and Boston where the virus first surged, COVID trends show a slowing of the virus for the first time. New York alone has seen a 20% drop in cases since January 1. 

Some health experts are now openly saying that the world could enter a post-pandemic phase this year.

"This virus is on its way to becoming endemic, there is no question about that, but we are very much, right now, in the middle of this pandemic," warned Dr. Kerkhove with WHO.

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