CDC estimates omicron now 3 percent of US COVID-19 cases

NIAID-RML via Associated Press

The omicron variant now represents about 3 percent of domestic COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday, showing the new variant is starting to rise in the U.S.

The CDC estimated omicron was 2.9 percent of sequenced U.S. cases for the week ending Dec. 11, up from 0.4 percent one week earlier. 

The number is expected to rise quickly given the sharp spikes in omicron in other countries. For example, officials in Britain have estimated omicron will be the dominant variant there within days. The U.S. trajectory appears to be somewhat behind. 

In New York and New Jersey, the CDC said omicron is already at 13 percent of sequenced cases. 

“While it is rapidly increasing, we have the tools needed to fight #COVID19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky wrote in a tweet on the new omicron data. “Get vaccinated, get boosted.”

Omicron is highly transmissible, helping fuel its rapid rise and displacing some of the delta variant, which has been fueling a spike in the U.S. even before omicron’s foothold. 

There is some early evidence that omicron could be less severe, though. On the other hand, it does significantly weaken the power of two shots of the vaccine in preventing infection, though protection against severe disease could hold up better. 

That is why health officials are urging all American adults to get a booster shot, which has been shown in early studies to restore the protection of the vaccine to high levels against infection. 

“Really we want to bolster our immune protection to fight against this variant that has a lot of mutations,” Walensky said Tuesday on CBS. “And so yes, we would really like people to get doubly vaccinated and then get their booster when they’re eligible for their booster.”

Tags CDC COVID-19 omicron Omicron variant Rochelle Walensky

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