The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today significantly cut down its estimate of the percentage of new COVID-19 infections in the United States caused by the Omicron strain of the virus.
According to CDC data, Omicron accounted for about 59% of all US infections as of December 25. Previously, the CDC said the Omicron strain comprised 73% of all cases for the week ending December 18. But that number has now been revised to 22.5% of all cases, while almost all other infections were caused by the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The agency attributed its huge miss on last week’s report – which triggered dramatic headlines about the variant’s lightning-fast spread – to new data becoming available.
“It’s important to note that we’re still seeing a steady increase in the proportion of Omicron.”
The omicron variant is highly transmissible and spreading rapidly, resulting in surges of infections even among people who are vaccinated. However, people who are vaccinated, and especially those who have received booster shots, are well protected against severe disease from the variant, experts say, meaning it poses the greatest risk to the unvaccinated.
The overstated figure was released by the CDC on December 20, the day before President Joe Biden gave a speech warning that unvaccinated Americans are at high risk of serious illness because of the new variant. He also said that “almost all” of the more than 400,000 Americans who died from COVID-19 in 2021 hadn’t been vaccinated.
Because of fears over Omicron, Biden’s administration tightened travel restrictions, including a ban on visitors from eight countries in southern Africa, where the variant was first identified last month. The travel ban will end on December 31, the president said on Tuesday. Still, he has warned that unvaccinated Americans face “a winter of severe illness and death.”
White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci warned yesterday that with Omicron spreading, even Americans who are vaccinated against COVID-19 shouldn’t attend large New Year’s Eve parties.
“There will be other years to do that, but not this year,” Fauci said.