Omicron accounted for 95% of sequenced coronavirus samples in the U.S. during the week ending Jan. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday, underscoring how swiftly the variant has elbowed out other strains.
The variant accounted for less than 1% of U.S. samples in the week ending Dec. 4, or shortly after scientists in South Africa sounded the alarm about omicron’s mutations and ability to spread quickly.
Omicron nudged out the delta variant at a startling clip through December, reaching 77% in the week ending with Christmas and 95.4% by New Year’s Day, according to the CDC update. The remaining 4.6% of sequenced cases were from the delta variant.
Cases have skyrocketed in recent days, averaging nearly half a million per day, though hospitalizations haven’t risen at the same rate. Scientists credit the slower rise in hospitalizations to the impact of vaccination and signs that omicron may not attack the lungs as badly as past variants.
Still, the sheer number of cases is causing a rise in hospitalizations among those who are unvaccinated or vaccinated and haven’t produced an adequate immune response.
Nearly 100,000 patients are hospitalized, enough to tax medical centers in some parts of the country but below the pandemic peak of over 130,000 in mid-January last year.
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