Why this outbreak of Covid-19 is “unprecedented in this pandemic”

By Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan, CNN

The United States kicked off 2022 with a massive surge in Covid-19 that some experts say will be unlike any other time in the pandemic.

“We are once again seeing an increase in the number of patients, unprecedented in this pandemic,” said Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at the George Washington University Hospital.

“What is coming for the rest of the country could be very serious, and they must be prepared.”

Even healthcare workers are being sidelined during the rapid rise of the Omicron variant, the most contagious strain of the novel coronavirus to hit the United States.

“Our healthcare system is in a very different place than we were in previous outbreaks,” said professor of emergency medicine, Dr. Esther Choo.

“This strain is so infectious that I think we all know scores of colleagues who are currently infected or showing symptoms and are in quarantine,” said Choo, associate professor at Oregon Health and Science University.

“We have an extremely high number of healthcare workers who have just lost,” she added. “We have lost at least 20% of our health workforce, probably more. “

Across the country, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has impacted businesses, transportation, and emergency services.

“Omicron is really everywhere,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, professor of emergency medicine in the School of Public Health at Brown University.

“What worries me the most over the next month is that our economy is going to shut down – not because of the policies of the federal government or the state governments, but rather because many of us are sick, ”Ranney said.

At New York, personnel issues led to the suspension of several subway lines, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York announced last week.

In Ohio, the mayor of Cincinnati declared a state of emergency after a spike in Covid-19 infections resulted in a staff shortage at the city’s firefighters.

The mayor said if the issue was not resolved, it would “significantly undermine” the readiness levels of first responders.

And thousands of flights have been canceled or delayed as staff and crew call in sick.

The vast majority of patients are not vaccinated, experts say

While Americans who have been fully vaccinated and boosted can become infected with Omicron, they are unlikely to become seriously ill, according to health experts.

But doctors across the country say most people hospitalized with Covid-19 are not vaccinated.

“What we are finding is that our vaccinated patients do not get sick, and our frail and vaccinated patients with multiple co-morbidities need to be hospitalized, but their admissions are shorter and they can leave the hospital after several days,” said Dr Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Our unvaccinated patients are the sickest patients,” she said. “These are the patients most likely to be on a ventilator.

“We’re out of testing,” added O’Neal. “We are running out of space. We are inundated in the emergency room.

Despite a year of calls from public health experts for vaccination – and now boosted – only about 62% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And about 33.4% of those who are fully vaccinated received their booster doses, the data shows.

“If you are not vaccinated, this is the most at risk group,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “The adults who are admitted to my establishment, the vast majority continue not to be vaccinated. “

Some school districts move away after record hospitalizations of Covid-19 children

New pediatric hospitalizations linked to Covid-19 hit an all-time high as millions of students prepare to return to school.

For the week ending December 28, an average of 378 children were admitted to hospitals each day with Covid-19, according to CDC data.

That’s a 66% jump from the previous week. It also breaks the previous record of 342 set during the Delta Variant Wave at the start of the school year.

With the more transmissible Omicron variant, some schools might want to postpone in-person learning, said pediatrician Dr Peter Hotez.

“This may be the case in some school districts, where things are so raging right now when it comes to Omicron for the next two weeks, and it may be safe to delay things for a few more weeks,” Hotez said. , dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“It will be a very difficult time,” Hotez said. “People are going to have to be patient. “

In Georgia, at least five major Atlanta-area school districts will begin distance education next week.

“Due to the rapid increase in positive cases in the Atlanta metro area, students will begin virtual classes Tuesday, Jan. 4 through Friday, Jan. 7,” the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) said on Saturday.

“Our current plan is to resume in-person teaching on Monday, Jan. 10,” the school district said.

“All APS staff are required to report to their workplace on Monday, January 3 for mandatory COVID-19 surveillance tests, unless they are ill. Data collected during staff testing will be used for future planning. “

The move, the APS said, will allow students and staff to be tested and to isolate and quarantine as needed, according to CDC and health department guidelines.

Close to Fulton County schools and DeKalb County Schools also announced that classes will begin online after the holidays.

Rockdale County Public Schools will start the New Year in a “virtual / distance learning environment,” the district’s website said. In-person learning is scheduled to resume on January 10.

And Clayton County public schools will have “independent virtual learning at home” until Friday, the school district said. In-person learning is scheduled to resume on January 10.

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CNN’s Alta Spells and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.

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