The U.S. has reported record numbers of Covid-19 infections as the Omicron coronavirus variant sweeps across the country, raising hospitalization rates and causing widespread disruption of flights.
The U.S. daily average of seven days on Saturday stood at nearly 400,000, the highest daily score since the start of the pandemic and more than double the average recorded on Christmas Day, according to the Financial Times data tracker.
The acceleration in infections comes as Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said on Thursday it would be possible to end the pandemic in 2022 if 70 percent of the world population were vaccinated by the middle of the year.
“If we end inequality, we will end the pandemic,” he said in a statement, after the WHO warned of a “tsunami of cases” of Covid around the world.
The latest increase in infections has wreaked havoc for travel around New Year celebrations, disrupting thousands of U.S. flights over the weekend. More than 2,700 flights to, from or within the U.S. were canceled on Saturday, with the number approaching nearly 2,000 by Sunday morning, according to the tracking website FlightAware.
Even U.S. states with high vaccination rates report record-breaking Covid cases. New York, where 72 percent of individuals were fully vaccinated, registered more than 85,000 new cases on Friday as the number of daily hospitalizations accelerated rapidly.
“No, we are not through this latest wave of Covid-19,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday.
Hochul, who said the state is preparing for a “boom in January,” has extended the requirement to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination to gain access to New York’s indoor locations until next month.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the 28,000 daily cases reported Friday were about “four times as many as just two weeks ago, and four times as many as during the height of last winter’s boom,” according to U.S. media reports.
He added: “Our hospitals are currently at about the same numbers as they were on the worst day of last winter’s boom. The problem is that we currently see no sign of stopping.”
Some U.S. states, including New York, Maine, and Ohio, have deployed the National Guard to help counter the latest wave of cases.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine told reporters last week: “We have more Ohio people with Covid in the hospital. . . than we had at any other time during this pandemic. ”
He said the state’s hospitals were “filling up”, adding that it was “run by people in Ohio who were not vaccinated and the numbers clearly show that”.
About 55 percent of the people in the state are fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
At the national level, 62 percent of the country’s population was vaccinated twice and about 33 percent received a booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite the acceleration in infections, the CDC new guidelines issued shortening the quarantine timeline for people infected with Covid to five days if they show no symptoms.
Omicron tests countries around the world. Twenty countries spanning four continents, including the US, reported record numbers of Covid cases in the week to 30 December, highlighting the impact the new variant is having on the health systems of both rich and poor countries.