US coronavirus: As Omicron sweeps the country, New York state offers a ray of hope

US coronavirus: As Omicron sweeps the country, New York state offers a ray of hope

The state is “turning the corner from the winter surge,” Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday.

After a positivity rate peaked at 23% on January 3, it is now at 16.3% and Covid-19 hospitalizations have also started to fall, she told a press conference.

“It’s still very high, but it will eventually catch up with the trend that’s only just beginning,” Hochul said.

She reported 49,027 new Covid-19 cases, adding that it’s “a very positive trend” because the state reported more than 90,000 cases just a week ago.

Nearly two weeks ago, as New Yorkers returned to work after the New Years holiday, Hochul’s message was far more somber, warning that the state was “in the wrong place” due to the rapid spread of the virus.

We fully anticipate that in addition to the wave that has already occurred, there will be another wave that will occur as a result of this holiday,” she said on January 3.

On Friday, she added that residents should remain vigilant.

“Recap: cases are trending down, around the corner, and we have to continue to be vigilant. We’re not going to push football up, you understand?” Hochul said.

CDC updates mask guidelines

And while cases are trending down in New York, hospitalizations for Covid-19 are at record highs nationwide – 157,272 on Friday – according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, two years into the pandemic, more than one in five eligible Americans have not received any doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Friday, the CDC updated its mask guidelines, including clarifying that certain types of masks and respirators offer more protection against the coronavirus than others.
A family wearing face masks walks through Union Station in Los Angeles

“Masking is an essential public health tool to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and it’s important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” the CDC said in a statement.

The updated information recommends that Americans wear the most protective mask or respirator they can find that is comfortable for them.

At least one expert wishes the advice had come sooner.

“We’ve known for a year that Covid is airborne and the quality of masks matters,” said Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore City Health Commissioner.

“Wear at least a surgical mask with a cloth mask on top. One layer of cloth mask just isn’t enough. If the guidelines had been changed months ago, we might not be here. where we are with Omicron,” she said. .

Study: Omicron is ‘inherently milder’ than Delta in children under 5

Although the current wave of Covid-19 is impacting children across the United States with record infections and school closures, a new study indicates that the Omicron variant is “inherently milder” in children aged less than 5 years old, with the infection causing “significantly less severe outcomes” than the Delta variant.

The pre-print study found an approximately 70% reduction in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and mechanical ventilation in children infected with Omicron compared to those infected with Delta.

It also saw a 29% reduction in emergency room visits.

About 1% of children infected with Omicron were hospitalized, compared to about 3% of children with Delta.

“Despite this encouraging result, further studies are needed to monitor the longer-term acute consequences of Omicron infection, the propensity for the development of ‘long COVID’, the speed of spread, the potential for mutation, and how prior infections alter clinical responses,” the study researchers wrote.

The study included approximately 7,000 children infected at a time when the Omicron variant was predominant and approximately 63,000 children infected when the Delta variant was predominant.

Data on deaths were not included, as there were few.

Overall, Covid-19 deaths nationwide have lagged behind the worst of last winter’s outbreak, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. The United States has averaged 1,659 Covid-19 deaths per day over the past week, up from a peak daily average of 3,402 on January 13, 2021.

Childhood hospitalizations at record high in Alabama

In Alabama, which has one of the lowest childhood immunization rates in the country, pediatric hospitalizations are at an all-time high.

“In the crisis of increased transmission of the virus with the Omicron variant, immediate action is essential,” Dr. Wes Stubblefield, chief medical officer for the Alabama Department of Health, said in a statement.

The department, along with the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, urges parents to minimize children’s exposure to the virus in schools and public places, wear properly fitting masks and get vaccinated. if they are eligible.

The state’s largest school system will go virtual next week to deal with rising Covid-19 cases.

The number of positive cases has made it “difficult to staff many of our schools,” Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Chresal Threadgill said.

Although students are expected to return to class on January 24, this decision will be made taking into account current Covid-19 figures.

Many hospitals halt elective procedures and rely on National Guard as Covid-19 hospitalizations rise

There were 16,035 cases of Covid-19 in Alabama schools this week, with all but four of the 143 districts reporting.

Childhood vaccination rates are also low in Alabama. About 10.5% of children in the 5-11 age group and 35.5% in the 12-17 age group have started to be vaccinated. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, the rate for at least one dose nationwide is 27% in the 5-11 age group and 64% in the 12-17 age group .

Nationwide, many school districts that had begun remote learning due to high numbers of Covid-19 cases among students and staff plan to resume in-person classes in the coming weeks.

In Philadelphia and New Jersey, most schools will reopen on Tuesday.

The Clark County School District, the largest in Nevada and the fourth largest in the United States, is pausing to deal with staffing shortages but hopes to resume in-person classes mid next week.

And Cincinnati Public Schools will be back in class on Jan. 24 if there are enough staff to reopen schools safely, officials said.

CNN’s Mirna Alsharif, Amy Simonson, Paradise Afshar, Deidre McPhillips, Virginia Langmaid and Elizabeth Stuart