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Omicron Is Milder Than Delta But Still Wreaking Havoc

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Positivity     40.00%   
   Negativity   60.00%
The New York Times
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A woman takes a COVID test in New York City, Dec. 27, 2021.The paradox of Omicron, now responsible for an estimated 98.3% of all US coronavirus cases, is that while it seems more likely to result in significantly milder outcomes than Delta and previous variants, the health system is as stressed as it’s ever been.Public health officials are warning that Omicron is threatening to overwhelm the medical infrastructure with sheer numbers, and hospitals are filled with seriously ill patients.“It's going to get worse before it gets better,” said Dean Blumberg, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert at the University of California, Davis.Here’s what we know about why this is happening:The variant appears to be roughly two to five times more transmissible than Delta, which previously dominated US cases.“This is the second-most contagious disease in the world now, second to measles,” said Sara Murray, the director of the health informatics data science and innovation team and an associate professor of clinical and hospital medicine at the University of California San Francisco.“While we are seeing early evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta and that those infected are less likely to require hospitalization, it's important to note that Omicron continues to be much more transmissible,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.This means that even though a smaller percentage of patients infected with Omicron require hospitalization, the total number of COVID cases is so high that hospitals are seeing more of those patients than at any point in the pandemic.COVID-19 cases have reached record levels in the US, averaging around 1.4 million new reported cases a day, itself an undercount. Almost a third of intensive care unit beds nationwide are now filled with COVID patients, meaning roughly 1 out of every 2.5 people in an ICU ward in the country has the virusThe number of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US.COVID is so widespread right now that a significant percentage of hospitalized patients are admitted for something else but then test positive upon screening at admittance.“We test a lot of asymptomatic patients in preparation for procedures or surgeries, planned hospitalizations — and even in those folks who are totally asymptomatic, we're seeing a case positivity right now of about 12%,” Murray said.“It’s a very different landscape that we're seeing with overcrowding in the hospital than we've seen with the prior waves of COVID,” said Richelle Charles, an infectious disease expert at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

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